Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Malena

Guiseppe Tournatore, 2000, Italy (8.2*)
From the director of the classic Cinema Paradiso (Oscar® winner for Foreign Film), if you enjoyed that film you should also like this one. Tournatore again returns to his childhood for inspiration. In this, a young teenage boy in a small Sicilian seacoast town named Renato, excellently portrayed by Guiseppe Sulfaro in his first role, begins the film by getting his first bicycle. To the other boys, this bicycle represents manhood (for Renato, it’s long pants!). On the same seminal day, he discovers the beautiful married woman (whose husband is at war in Africa for Italy), Malena, whom his friends watch walk to town daily (then the whole town watches her shop). Melena is beautifully played in her first film by former model Monica Bellucci, and luckily for us, we get to see just about all of her beauty, as Guiseppe realizes that he is now becoming a man, and begins to spy on Malena, even in her private moments. He later defends her against the town gossips, which is just about everyone, as all the women are jealous of her beauty and the attention she garners from all the men.

The truthful pain of this story is that the boy cannot make himself older (she’s twice his age) and be the man Melena might need, as her husband does not return, so we feel Guiseppe’s helpless torture. Tournatore said that “the greatest love is all is unrequited love”; it’s a theme that also dominated Cinema Paradiso; the first love is almost always unrequited in Tournatore’s films, and it shapes his characters lives. The film starts as a romantic comedy, then turns serious as the war affects all these residents of the town, perhaps the story’s biggest shortcoming, the shift in mood and tone. The towns of Siracusa and Noto looked stunningly like the Renaissance paintings of Caravaggio, apparently untouched by war or time for centuries, as we see in many beautiful shots (the cinematography received and Oscar® nomination). We also hear another beautiful Oscar®-nominated score by Ennio Morricone (who has scored six of Tournatore’s seven films). Another rewarding and nostalgic film by Tournatore, whose fans won’t be disappointed.

2 comments:

Shubhajit April 30, 2009 at 11:01 AM  

A really fine movie this one - makes a fine journey from an idiosyncratic tale of a boy's fantasizing about a bootylicious older lady to a touching ode to survival of a severely misunderstood lonely lady. And boy, Monica Bellucci is one lovely lady to savour for deserts!

Jose Sinclair May 1, 2009 at 1:36 AM  

I agree.. the turn of mood caught me, but Monica sure pulled it off with some good acting.
Finally saw some Tornatore's that left me sad and cold: Legend of 1900 (sad, hard to recommend, but still a major vision), and The Star Maker (great beginning, nice locations in Sicily; then I felt ripped off with the plot turn.. another gorgeous Mediterranean actress as a 16 year old virgin). Still some unforgettable scenes in each film. I loved an amphitheater he shot in that looked 1000 yrs old at least. Amazing island.

I think I'll watch every Tornatore movie, I only have 2 remaining. He's worth the effort, isn't he?

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These are the individual film reviews of what I'm considering the best 1000 dvds available, whether they are films, miniseries, or live concerts. Rather than rush out all 1000 at once, I'm doing them over time to allow inclusion of new releases - in fact, 2008 has the most of any year so far, 30 titles in all; that was a very good year for films, one of the best ever.



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