Plot: What’s it about?
Renato Amoroso (Guiseppe Sulfaro) is just a young boy, but he is very smart and observant, without a doubt. He lives in Italy and when his country joins the effort in World War II, he starts down the road of manhood, even though he doesn’t know that at the time. At the time, he has just been given his first bike and he first sees Malena (Monica Bellucci), the gorgeous woman who just moved into town. Malena has come to be with her husband Nico, but once Italy enters the conflict, he is called off to fight in the battles, leaving her alone in this new town. She soon becomes the focus of the residents, as a goddess to the men and a bane to the women, who gossip behind her back and speak very bad things about her. But Malena remains strong and even as years pass, she is able to hold firm and look toward the bright side, but then her husband is reported dead, which sends her even deeper into the darkness. She soon becomes the victim of even more brutal abuse from the locals, which causes her problems in almost all facets of her life. It seems like only Renato has any sympathy for Malena, but will he stand up for this brave woman?
I found Malena to be a good movie, but I felt it fell short of all the praise it was showered with, perhaps due to unrealistic expectations. I had read countless gushing reviews and the film was nominated for Oscars, so maybe I put too much faith in the hype machine, who knows. But I wanted to give the film a second chance, so when the film arrived on DVD, I decided to give it a spin and see how it played on the home theater. I enjoyed Malena to a greater extent in the more intimate setting of my home to be sure, so perhaps this is one of those movies that plays better on the smaller screen. I still don’t think this movie is as powerful as some others claim, but it is a terrific film and one that is worth a look, without a doubt. Guiseppe Tornatore (Cinema Paradiso, Everybody’s Fine) directs Malena with great skill and steers it in just the right directions, though that might not always be the direction the audience wants or expects. I think the advertisements played this as being much lighter than it is, as Malena packs a dark side, which could turn off some viewers. Even so, Malena is a more than solid picture than deserves a look, even though Miramax decided to trim a few minutes here and there, for no real reason.
Although young star Guiseppe Sulfaro turns in a very good performance, I think Malena belongs to the woman in the title role, Monica Bellucci. Of course, her stunning good looks are needed to push the character’s sexuality, but rest assured, she isn’t just another pretty face. Bellucci is able to milk her gorgeous body for all it is worth however, which is just what is called for here, given the nature of the character and all. She also makes sure to flesh out the internal aspects of Malena also though, via facial expressions, body language, and intangibles that seems to convey inner messages very well. This is a real blockbuster turn if you ask me and of course, I cannot wait to see more of Bellucci very soon. You can also see Bellucci in such films as Brotherhood of the Wolf, Under Suspicion, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Dobermann, and Those Who Love. The cast also includes Guiseppe Sulfaro, Luciano Federico (Moon Child, Father and Son), and Matilde Piana (Sunshine Even By Night, Honey Sweet Love).
Video: How does it look?
Malena is presented in a 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. This is a terrific visual presentation and while a few flaws surface, I doubt anyone will be displeased here. The lush visuals come across in grand form, with vibrant colors and natural flesh tones, no errors of any kind in this regard to report. The black levels remain stark and well balanced also, so detail is always high and never gets bogged down in the least. You can see some slight compression errors here and there, but nothing to be too worried about. In the end, this is a great looking visual transfer and fans should be overjoyed with this treatment.
Audio: How does it sound?
I didn’t expect much from this film, as it didn’t seem to have much audio potential, but I was very pleased once I gave it a listen. The original Italian language is preserved in a Dolby Digital 5.1 option, which has an ample presence and has much more depth than I had counted on. This won’t replace your current demo disc by any means, but as far as this material goes, this is even better than I could have hoped for. The surrounds are used often here and not just for Ennio Morricone’s excellent score either, some great subtle effects and power can be heard here. The dialogue is clean and crisp at all times also, with no volume problems to discuss. This disc also includes a French language option, as well as subtitles in English and Spanish.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This disc includes a brief behind the scenes featurette, three television spots, and the film’s theatrical trailer.