September 21, 2008
Italy / USA
Italian / Sicilian / English / Latin
92 Minutes (USA Version) — December 25, 2000
Comedy / Drama / Romance / War
Giuseppe Tornatore [Cinema Paradiso]
Monica Bellucci [Bram Stoker's Dracula; Irreversible; The Matrix Reloaded]
An Intimate Portrait And An Epic Story Of The Courage We Discover, The Innocence We Surrender, And The Memories We Cherish…Forever.
In Sicily in the early 1940s, a beautiful woman, who loses her husband in the war, is the object of an adolescent’s day dreams.
From the man who brought us perhaps the most nostalgic film of all time, CINEMA PARADISO, a movie I love with all of my naive heart. Take a look at the tagline above. He tries to have lightening strike twice. “The memories we cherish forever”?
This lightweight story is about a small Italian fishing village as Mussolini rises to power just before World War II. A young teenager named Renato is our surrogate for this film. We will grow up with him and experience life in Italy with him. The film opens with him receiving a new bicycle which seems to be the entry fee into a group of older boys who hang out together. He follows them one day as they race to a seawall, sit on it, and wait. His questions are all answered as Malena walks out of her house, past the panting boys, towards the market. As she passes, we actually get to see Renato’s shorts get tighter.
The entire story revolves around a woman whose husband is fighting for the Italian army. This woman is so beautiful that the rest of the village goes completely bonkers. Rumors spread, men declare their love, women spit on her, boys climb trees to peer into her house, German occupiers pay to sleep with her–all while she pines for her beloved.
In order to pull off a story like this, the woman needs to be almost supernaturally beautiful. Beautiful enough to become the obsession not just of an adolescent boy (which is comparably easy), but the obsession of an entire region of Italy, as well as male and female viewers, alike. There are maybe five women on the planet who could inspire such a response. Monica Bellucci is absolutely one of them.
From the moment we see her sashaying by the group of boys, we are goners. She is a work of art. From that point on, there is not a single thing that happens in this unevenly toned film that seems out of place. A beautiful woman can make people do unbelievable things. I would say that Bellucci would probably lead any number of global villages to cease to function as societies were she to show up in one of her cleavage-baring dresses.
Beyond that, there isn’t much here. The character of the boy is a pretty realistic portrayal of someone who is protecting the thing he loves without telling the object of his affection. He spies on her, he dreams about her, he masturbates to her, she shows up in his daydreams as a teacher, or butcher, and he writes unsent letter to her declaring his love and that he’ll always be around to protect her. It’s probably a uniquely male thing to do, to create a fantasy world where you have a relationship with someone you’ve never spoken to, where you defend someone who doesn’t know your name, where you know that if she would just talk with you once, she’d be as convinced about your compatibility as you are. This is hard to portray on film, so it falls back on flashes of breasts and on the incredible face of Ms. Bellucci.
Because I am a straight male, I needed to do further research on Ms. Bellucci and was shocked and horrified to find that the version of MALENA that I saw on DVD, while rated R (deservedly), had more than ten minutes cut from it, including several more scenes of seduction and nudity. The horror!
I am now firmly on the Bellucci bandwagon. To fans of hers I say, skip IRREVERSIBLE as you may never recover from what you see in it. I am also incredibly happy that she is roaring into her 40s as beautiful as ever.
The film, in a nutshell is about a woman so beautiful that a village goes bonkers. Don’t look for anything deeper than that.
* Halliwells — “Teenage fantasies of sexual success conflict with the realities of political failure and personal humiliation in this engaging fable that shows the influence of Fellini.”
Malena @ Amazon
, Giuseppe Tornatore
, Monica Bellucci