Poor performances and an overlong running time ruin this lavish production from Bernardo Bertolucci. Paul Bowles' existential novel is difficult to translate to film anyway, but leading actors Debra Winger and John Malkovich fail to bring any interest to their spoiled American characters. The narrative never clearly explains what is going on with them or what drives their adventures, other than boredom or contempt. Campbell Scott is admittedly attractive in his foppish role, but his motivations are never illustrated either. The enchanting score from Ryuichi Sakamoto is interesting and the lush cinematography from Vittorio Storaro of endless desert landscapes and North African villages is beautiful to look at, but neither can save this film from its tedium. The ending is particularly devastating as Winger becomes something of a kept wife for a sheik when she is left alone in the desert. The Sheltering Sky might still inspire audiences to read Bowles' source novel, because the film is so confusing and slow-paced, they might question what it was about in the first place.