Quick Take: Time has passed and I have 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. ~ Renato
Phantom’s review: I had heard that Malèna was a good foreign film, so I rented the DVD (in spoken Italian, with English subtitles). Whoa, am I glad I did, because not only is it a good film, it ranks right up there near the top of my Best list!
Billed as a story about "the one you will never forget," Malèna is a moving tale with an intensity that sneaks up on you, even if in a good way, and it definitely took me by surprise.
The film is written and directed by Giuseppe Tornatore, the Academy Award-winning director (Cinema Paradiso), who dwells in a nostalgia for the past and for the coming-of-age of a single young male protagonist. The story is told by Renato Amoroso (Giuseppe Sulfaro), who lives in a small Sicilian village, backdropped by World War II in 1941.
Twelve years old when he first encounters Malèna (Monica Bellucci), Renato is captivated from the very first time he sees her. We follow his obsession with Malèna, who exudes a aura of great sadness through the entire film. She has been left alone with only her aged father (Pietro Notarianni) for family when her new husband, Nino (Gaetano Aronico), goes off to war. As Renato's fascination with Malèna grows, we watch him engage in a series of rather predictably youthful shenanigans and entertaining fantasies.
Isolated and beautiful, Malèna soon becomes the object of every male's sexual fantasy and the scorn of every local woman, all of whom seemingly exist only to spread rumors about Malèna's sexual habits. Each time she walks through the piazza, Malèna is met with lecherous stares and catcalls from the men, and stony glares and hand-covered whispers by the women. After she receives word of her husband's death and her father is killed during an Allied bombing of Sicily, Malèna finds that she has nowhere to turn. She becomes victimized by some locals, then chooses to prostitute herself to German soldiers in order to survive.
Eventually the war ends, the allies liberate the country, and Malèna is assaulted by the village women and forced to leave town. In the end, Malèna's honor is restored by the most unlikely of characters (but one of no surprise) and she emerges the victor, in spite of all she has had to endure. Almost to the very end, we see Malèna's great sadness, until...
Throughout the film, I found myself championing Renato's cause. I still remain disappointed that he never reveals himself to Malèna as her secret defender and protector, yet he remains the film's hero.
Malèna! No doubt, this film is one for the collection!
Di Luzio, Gabriella