Malèna Review – Good, Certainly Not Great

(Recommended by SI Blog reader Guruprasad)

I pedaled as fast as I could, as if I were escaping from longing, from innocence, from her.

Time has passed and I’ve loved many women.

And as they’ve held me close and asked if I will remember them I’ve said, “Yes, I will remember you.”

But the only one I’ve never forgotten is the one who never asked – Malèna.

– Amoroso Renato in Malèna

Thus ends the Italian movie Malèna (2000).

And as the credits started rolling, we couldn’t but help but ponder this point – Is it possible to forget the traumatic humiliations and vicious beatings heaped on you – motivated largely out of jealousy for your fine looks and classy demeanor – and pretend as if it all never happened the next time you encounter your oppressors.

No, that goes against the grain of human nature.

And human beings are certainly not so forgiving. But Malèna director Giuseppe Tornatore would have you believe otherwise.

Or the attitude of the town-folk towards Malèna’s husband. This time, the director seems to go off completely in the other direction.

Strange, but we suppose these are what’s termed cinematic liberties.

Unrequited Love
Set in a small Italian town during World War II when Il Duce Benito Mussolini’s voice roared all across Italy via radio sets, the movie is a tale of unrequited lust or unrequited love or unrequited infatuation for Malèna – The woman (Monica Bellucci) with the most beautiful ass in Castelcuto and a face to match.

But this is not the lust, love or infatuation of a young lad or an older man besotted with the town beauty, although anyone with cojones in Castelcuto is obsessed with Malèna.

You see, our protagonist here is a mere kid (Giuseppe Sulfaro). Just 12 1/2 when the movie starts.

We see the entire movie through the young boy’s eyes, and as told years later. Here Malèna director Giuseppe Tornatore employs the same technique he did in his acclaimed Cinema Paradiso (1989), a stellar film that won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film.

Captivating Beauty
is the story of our eponymous woman and her exquisite beauty.

A beauty that draws the attention of not merely all the men in town but also young boys like our Amoroso Renato, who falls under her spell from the moment he first eyes her, and of the women-folk as well, who despise her for the very beauty that has enslaved their men.

The war years are hard times for most Italians including Malèna, whose husband is in the army serving in northern Africa. To make a bad situation worse, comes unwelcome news that Malèna’s husband has been killed in the war.

Life gets harsh for the young widow, not merely at the hands of local gossips, both men and women, but also in finding food for survival. Her own father, the deaf school teacher, turns against her after receiving a nasty anonymous note labeling his daughter the town slut.

Interestingly, Monica Bellucci, who plays Malèna with mucho elegance, speaks very little throughout the movie. Once in the court and a few short sentences at other times.

Most of the time, our glimpses of Malèna is of her regal, elegant walk down the streets of the town.

It’s the potent story that gives voice to Malèna.

Monica Bellucci in Malèna is beautiful and sensual in an elegant, old-world, European, timeless kind of way. Not the crude, slutty looks of our Bollywood starlets or the made-up, vampish prettiness of the Hollywood beauties.

We liked her best of all as we along with Renato espy her dancing alone to Ma L’Amore No playing on the turntable.

Giuseppe Sulfaro as the young Renato can teach our veteran Indian actors more than a few lessons in the craft of acting. Abhishek Bachchans of the world, are you listening?

The kid Renato is a charmer, alright.

Whether astride his bicycle on the streets in pursuit of a glimpse of his inamorata or during his moments of idle fantasies, the boy has done a fine job.

Humor, Both Good & Crass
There’s some nice humor and some not-so-nice humor here.

The not-so-nice humor, crass moments have to do mostly with the schoolboys’ behavior toward the deaf teacher (also Malèna’s father).

The nice humor invariably has to with the young boy Renato’s obsession with Malèna.

Like the scene where he so furiously masturbates on his bed that it disturbs his sleeping father who yells out in anger:

You’re going to go blind.

Or the scene where Renato is caught in bed with Malèna’s panties wrapped around his face.

Worth Watching
is our second film from director Giuseppe Tornatore.

The director has a knack of building strong, memorable characters woven around decent stories in his movies.

As with the young boy in Cinema Paradiso, so with Malèna and Renato in Malèna.

Tornatore has also written the screenplay for Malèna based on the story by Luciano Vincenzoni.

The photography is decent and the settings convey the 1940s era plausibly enough.

And if you need one more reason to watch Malèna, the music is from our beloved maestro Ennio Morricone. recommends Malèna.

You can rent the movie from Netflix if you live in the U.S. For those in India, well, you guys do have nimble fingers. Don’t you? 😉

8 Responses to "Malèna Review – Good, Certainly Not Great"

  1. felecofcornwall   January 16, 2010 at 6:42 am

    I’m yet to get into the habit of watching non-english foreign films, but I’m sure I’ll make a start soon with one of the movies you’ve reviewed in the past.

    By the way, do you feel a handicap, when reviewing foreign language movies, as you may have to depend on the subtitles to follow the story. Responds

    Not knowing the language is a barrier because you constantly have to look at the subtitles and you wonder what nuances or subtle moments you are missing on the screen while doing that.

    That said many of the foreign movies we’ve watched and reviewed here are universal in their classy appeal.

  2. ravihyd84   January 16, 2010 at 8:50 am

    Just watched Le Dîner de cons (The dinner game) without knowing that it was remade in Hindi. After first 15 mins I remembered seeing a movie with exact screenplay but was not able to finish for some reasons at that time. After googling I came to know that it was Bheja Fry. Shame on those who copy foreign movies without giving due credit..

    By the way this film is being remade in English

    If you haven’t watched Bheja Fry then Le Diner de cons is a must watch.. Responds

    Le dîner de cons looks interesting.

    Will watch this one. We haven’t seen Bheja Fry although it has been on our list for a while.

  3. ravihyd84   January 16, 2010 at 9:35 am

    One small doubt.. You always ask to rent movies from Netflix in US. Is torrents or other sources banned in US or there Indians become saints and never watch pirated copies??? Responds

    You write: You always ask to rent movies from Netflix in US. Is torrents or other sources banned in US or there Indians become saints and never watch pirated copies???

    As we’ve said often, you can easily take Indians out of India but it’s very hard to take India out of Indians. So a lot of Indians even here engage in this pirate shit of illegal downloading or getting bootleg DVDs from Indian grocery stores, stealing satellite TV et al.

    But when you have an outfit like Netflix with over 100,000 films/TV Series/Documentaries plus some 12,000 Instant Play movies in a gazillion languages, it’s stupid to engage in that kind of behavior. This argument applies to older movies, of course. BTW, Netflix isn’t that expensive…starts at $8.99 a month and they carry loads of Hindi, Tamil and even Telugu movies.

    For new movies (be it Bollywood, Kollywood, Tollywood or Hollywood), we prefer to see them in the theatre. These days, Hindi, Tamil and Telugu films release even in smaller cities in the U.S. on the same day as in India.

    And we hate watching movies on a PC or worse laptop or netbook. Just not the same. 🙁

  4. Jump a Lahiri   January 16, 2010 at 11:00 am

    OK, I thought just watching just the “important” scenes was enough.. will try to watch the whole movie. Responds:

    Not much nudity either. 🙁

  5. ravihyd84   January 16, 2010 at 12:28 pm

    If Jump a Lahiri is in India and gets the movie using the way you suggested for Indians then he will get uncut version 😀 .. Responds:

    If you’d read Jump a Lahiri’s previous comments, you’d have guessed that she/he/it is also based in the U.S. and has plenty of choice when it comes to ‘uncut’ versions. 😉

    • Jump a Lahiri   January 16, 2010 at 4:23 pm

      yes, I consider myself to be a connoisseur of “uncut” scenes .. I have various secure AND free sources.. So ‘Knocked Up’ ( struck a chord with me.. have you watched it, SI?

      Listening to AO music (and enjoying kirkland’s German lager).. quite good both of them.. PBS’ comeback as you may have known. Responds:

      Knocked Up? No.

      Will listen to AO music tonight.

  6. rpsfyn   January 17, 2010 at 12:42 am

    I remember hearing about the film for all the wrong reasons :P….btw it was good watch..

    anyway..offtopic again…see raajneeti trailer…its really good..

    one of my most anticipated film from bollywood in 2010 Responds:

    Yeah, watched the Raajneeti trailer yesterday. SI blog reader Ajayrocks had posted the link.

  7. Filmlover   January 11, 2011 at 4:40 am

    Malena is very good movie. First, i watched this movie for the sake of Monica Bellucci. She is really gorgeous and brilliant actress. But i liked whole movie itself. The movie has very interesting script and very good characterization. However, as you said, movie is good but not great. Thanks for your review.

You must be logged in to post a comment Login