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This review is from: Malena [DVD] (DVD)
Anyone who's seen 'Citizen Kane' remembers the wonderful speech given by an elderly man reflecting on the memory from his youth of seeing a woman in a white dress; though she never saw him, and they never spoke, he remembered her for the rest of his life. Essentially, 'Malena' is that story writ large.
This may well turn out to be Monica Bellucci's signature role. Not only did this film launch her as a leading lady to international audiences, but it also confronts head-on the manner in which she, and countless other beauties of stage and screen, have been and continue to be treated by the world: lusted after, resented, and finally broken down. Some have condemned 'Malena' as voyeuristic, objectifying the leading lady; but this film is really a comment on objectification and voyeurism, a poignant tale about how a woman's looks result in her being ostracised by her community. As it is all told from the perspective of a twelve-year old boy, understandably infatuated, it's also a touching coming of age story; and it's all played out against the backdrop of fascist-ruled Sicily in the late days of the Second World War. That's a lot to squeeze into eighty-odd minutes.
Like any truly great film, 'Malena' takes the viewer through a myriad of emotions. It's hilariously funny, showing us the awkwardness of puberty and the protagonist's generally absurd fantasies involving the object of his lust. It's very sexy, the camera truly loving every inch of the impossibly gorgeous Ms Bellucci. It's tense and disturbing, the shadow of war constantly threatening to break the tranquility of the picturesque town. And it's harrowing to see how the town's gossip about Malena escalates into suspicion, contempt, and ultimately persecution.
All in all, 'Malena' is simply beautiful. Perhaps it falls back a little too often on chocolate box visuals of the idyllic, sunkissed Sicillian coast, but then this is a tale told by a man looking back on his youth, a period of our lives that - in spite of whatever hardships are endured - we all tend to look back on through rose-tinted glasses. It captures wonderfully the bittersweet longing of adolescent infatuation, in a refreshingly frank and honest manner. Indeed, too frank and honest for some it seems, as reputedly this version (as previously mentioned, less than an hour and a half long) has been cut by over fifteen minutes, excising material which was deemed to have pushed the boundaries of voyeurism and sexual fantasy a little too far; to the best of my knowledge there is no uncut version yet available in the UK or US, annoyingly. For this reason alone I have held off purchasing this DVD, in the hope that the uncut version may eventually be released. But even at a shorter running time, 'Malena' is a must-see film to be cherished. Anyone who has ever loved someone who didn't even know they existed will have something to relate to.