Something in the way she moves. Renato (Sulfaro) is simply entranced by Malèna (Bellucci)...
dir-scr Guiseppe Tornatore
with Guiseppe Sulfaro, Monica Bellucci, Luciano Federico, Matilde Piana, Pietro Notarianni, Gaetano Aronica, Gilberto Idone, Pippo Provvidenti, Maria Terranova, Gabriella DiLuzio, Angelo Pellegrino, Elisa Morucci
release US 25.Dec.00; UK 16.Mar.01
awards Best Cinematography, Best Original Score (Oscar nominations, 01)
Miramax 00/Italy 1h32
3 out of 5 stars
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
she changed his life forever There's something of a double whammy working for or against this film (depending on your taste), combining the warm-hued nostalgia of Tornatore (Cinema Paradiso) with the honey-coloured sweetness of Miramax's Euro-productions (Chocolat). Yes, this is a beautifully made, deeply sentimental, unashamedly syrupy film.

It centres on young Renato (Sulfaro) growing up in Sicily in the 1940s. Mussolini has thrown his lot in with the Nazis, but Renato and his friends have a bigger problem: Their emerging manhood! Which is stirred by the appearance of the gorgeous Malena (Bellucci). In fact, she's so drop-dead stunning that tongues start wagging throughout the town, as jealous wives gossip about the disgraceful things she must be getting up to while her husband (Aronica) is off fighting in North Africa. Soon things blow up into a full-blown scandal, while Renato watches (and silently tries to protect) her ... and he seems to be the only one who knows the truth.

As a coming-of-age tale, this film feels rather slight--nicely observed, effectively underplayed by the cast, yet not terribly original or insightful. But it's made much more enjoyable by the production design--Lajos Koltai's striking cinematography, Ennio Morricone's fantastic score, Francesco Frigeri's detailed production design and most notably Ms Bellucci, who quietly glides through virtually every scene so that, like the film's characters, you can't take your eyes off her. Even when the plot meanders off to tie up irrelevant threads, wallow in a bit more nostalgic yearning or indulge in some silly fantasy sequences (Tornatore really was that kid in Cinema Paradiso, wasn't he!), her presence is so strongly felt that it's all we're concerned with. And then there she is again, seductively strolling across the piazza, all heads turning as her skirt flaps in the breeze, tantalisingly revealing a glimpse of a leg, driving poor young Renato to distraction and drawing out the film's unintended theme that puberty never really ends, does it?
adult themes and situations, language cert 15 12.Mar.01

send your review to Shadows...she changed his life forever R E A D E R   R E V I E W S

"This was so much more than just another adolescent coming of age movie. This is also Malena's tragic story, albeit seen through the eyes of Renato. Through Renato, the film confronts us with a sometimes overwhelming sense of society's cruelty and hypocrisy. The scene where the other townswomen turn on Malena is almost unbearable to watch. If you can divert your focus from the undeniably gorgeous Ms Belluci, this film tells us much more about the prejudices of society than we'd like to admit." --TJ Hatton, Essex 16.Apr.02
© 2001 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall