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Cast Malena (Monica Bellucci)
Renato (Giuseppe Sulfaro)
Renatoís father (Luciano Federico)
Renatoís mother (Matilde Piana)
Professor Bonsignore (Pietro Notarianni)
Written and Directed by Giuseppe Tornatore, based on the story by Luciano Vincenzoni
Rated R for sexuality, nudity, language and violence
Running Time: 90 minutes Distributed by Miramax
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Malena is a part coming of age story and part tragic love story that is somewhat expressionistically overdone. The film takes place during the 1940ís in the little Sicilian village of Castelcuto. Malena (Bellucci) is the most beautiful and gossiped about woman in all of Castelcuto. Everyone in the village watches her every appearance, whether it is the men lusting after her or the women avenging against her. She captures the heart of a young teenager named Renato (Sulfaro). Though Renato is obsessed emotionally and erotically by Malena, he doesnít view her the same way the rest of the village does. Renato learns everything about Malena and becomes her guardian without her even knowing who he is. As his friends laugh at him and his parents try to understand him, Renato grows up loving a woman that everyone either hates or desires.

Malena has a pleasant backbone story to it along with beautiful visuals, but the film becomes too overdone and unrealistic. It is watchable and some moments are very admirable, but there are noticeable problems in the film.

Writer/director Giuseppe Tornatore delivers passionate and colorful beauty from beginning to end of this film. Tornatoreís direction is strong in moments and modestly dim in others. Examples are the emotion and heartache of the film are deep and connectable. One example is a violent scene that takes place in the center of the village towards the end of the film. The downside is the overdone directional moments from Tornatoreís choices. An example is how every single person Malena struts by, winds up characteristically checking her out without her noticing once. I just found the moments like these to look loosely fake. Tornatoreís directional effort in this film isnít bad by any means; there are just some bothersome moments that I immediately reacted to while watching the film.

His script for the film is also somewhat problematic, though somewhat sturdy. The dialogue moves quickly with the townspeople and Renato doing most of the speaking. What I found interesting was that Malena hardly speaks at all in this film, which I found gave her character more depth by her actions and gestures. Renatoís story is kind and it works well with his obsessive protection for Malena. The only real problems I had with the script, besides the "overdone moments" I spoke of earlier, is that some of the parts with Renato and his daydreams of Malena. One example is when he visualizes himself as Tarzan and Malena as Jane. I understood these momentsí intention, but I found that his imagitive obsession had already been established without showing it right to your face.

The young Giuseppe Sulfaro delivers a fine performance as Renato, especially for a teenager. He does carry the film and I found that he sort of glued the film together. The only really other notable cast member is Monica Bellucci, who plays Malena. Like I said before, her character doesnít have many lines, but Bellucciís seclusion and emotions are brilliant and important to the film.

Malena isnít a great film, but it isnít a bad film either. There are some good moments and a workable story that most adult audiences might like. However, others might turn away because the film is foreign and most mainstream American audiences donít like to read subtitles. I just found some flaws with the film with its repeative "overdone moments".

Copyright, 2001 Joseph C. Tucker

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