Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Malena is an object of desire. She doesn't speak. She walks through the streets of this Sicilian town with the grace of a supermodel.

Giuseppe Tornatore has been basking in the glow of his second film, Cinema Paradiso, for 13 years, unable to recapture the blend of sentimentality, nostalgia and innocence. Now, with American money, he returns to another aspect of childhood, the capacity of adolescent boys to fantasise about sex.

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Wrapped in luscious cinematography, while exposed to vague fascist sympathies during El Duce's love affair with power, the film is a eulogy to masturbation and voyeurism.

It's the old rites-of-passage scenario, a return to that place where unrequited love remains forever true because it is forever false.

Malena is the daughter of the deaf old school teacher, whose husband has gone off to war. The boys of the town sit on the sea wall and ogle as she passes. Renato (Giuseppe Sulfaro), the shyest and youngest, goes further. He spies on her at home and dreams about taking the lead opposite her in famous American movies.

Time passes, the war is lost, the town liberated. Since her husband was reported killed in action, Malena has taken lovers, even for money, from amongst the German officers billeted on the island. Renato watches and waits.

The film becomes a series of tableaux. The crowd scenes are painterly, the sets dressed to perfection, the air of artificiality completed by the impossible beauty of Monica Belucci, who does not act so much as strut.

Malena is no more real than a poster. Tornatore has not changed. Everything is in the look, not the substance. Cinema Paradiso was a little boy's eyes. Malena is a woman walking.

Reviewed on: 11 Apr 2001
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An adolescent boy stalks beautiful woman in small Sicilian town during the war.
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Director: Giuseppe Tornatore

Writer: Giuseppe Tornatore, based on a story by Luciano Vincenzoni

Starring: Monica Bellucci, Giuseppe Sulfaro, Luciano Federico, Matilde Piana, Pietro Natarianni

Year: 2000

Runtime: 92 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: Italy US


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