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Overall Rating

Awesome: 23.81%
Worth A Look47.62%
Average: 0%
Pretty Bad: 28.57%
Total Crap: 0%

2 reviews, 9 user ratings

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by Greg Muskewitz

"The fantasy fable turns into a nightmare of perversion."
2 stars

I don't think that Giuseppe Tornatore ever lived up to the potential he exhibited in his second film. Cinema Paradiso is probably my favorite foreign film ever and I admit I have not seen the majority of his movies in the interim from Cinema Paradiso until The Legend of 1900, but with the inclusion of Malena, despite a fable, fairy tale-like motif he embellishes upon in each, this pushes it off the edge with its perverted nature and overall stupidity and ridiculousness.

In Castelcuto, Italy, 1940-ish, Renato (Giuseppe Sulfaro) is a pubescent boy (not yet a man, because he still wears shorts instead of slacks) who is introduced, visually, to the sultry beauty of "Malena, the most beautiful ass in Sicily" (Monica Bellucci), the wife of a soldier who is currently at war. Renato and his group of friends have nothing better to do all day than follow Malena around all day, comparing the size of their penises (the trusty old Thumb Comparison), and fantasizing non-stop about her. (Renato, who is incessantly masturbating indiscreetly "to her" is scolded by his father, "You're going to go blind!")

But Renato takes it up a notch and finds a niche voyeuristically watching into her house from a slot he created. Often he creates wild fantasies about sexually winning her, but when the local womens' gossip troupe begins falsifying rumors about her fidelity, Renato spits in their drinks and pisses in their purses.

The townswoman are really jealous of her looks and the attraction their husbands have to her over them, so when she is informed that her husband was killed at war and she begins to see someone, they know no boundaries and impudently characterize Malena as being lascivious. Time will only tell though, when Nazi German moves into town and she deteriorates in front of them and us into a tacky prostitute, peroxided hair and all.

Between the cheeky masturbation scenes, the fantasy scenes, and an overall assortment of other perverted scenes (the teacher is calling role: Fabrizio/ Presente/ Costanza/ Presente/ Scordia/ Can I put my dick between her tits/ In her mouth/ Between her legs), it becomes a teens' soft-core porno, and not a very potent one at that. Early on we get the idea that this is a horny movie, but it never ceases to end with the childish custom. (When Renato's father walks into to find him sleeping with a panty he stole from Malena's washline, he scolds him, "You are a fetishist, a sadomasochist. Even worse, a pervert!" and then locks him inside his room.)

For a fantasy, there is not much that is whimsical or dreamy. Malena instead tries to bash you over the head with its projected uncontrollable sexual urges and un-delights. The story adapted by Tornatore from Luciano Vincenzoni's story is much more of a downer! There is little to nil that is actually charming or jocund. When Tornatore tosses her degradation and deterioration into our faces, it's hard to care, because even though Malena isn't a dislikable character, he doesn't give us any ground to like her either. What happens to her is wrong and cruel, but beyond that, it warrants no pathos. And the deus ex machina that is thrown in at the end to try and "lighten" things up fails head on. It's a horrible ploy and an ill placed gimmick.

As for Bellucci, whose character the movie is misnamed after, she hardly cracks a lip, until nearly halfway through the running time. She is not a great actress, but she isnít so bad to keep her silent so often and so strictly.

There is a nice bit of camera work, courtesy of Lajos Koltai, and one particular long take that stands out as a bit of gossip is passed along in the market, but the rest of the oily work cannot rescue the rest from drowning in its viscous predestination.

I don't know if the placement of youths in sexual situations is not as prudently watched in Italy as it is here, but Tornatore definitely pushes the possibilities, and because of its position, not the Malena's advantage. It would be a shame to see a nomination wasted on Malena for a foreign film just because Tornatore is the director (that's what I hear the case was with The Star Maker); there are so many other good possibilities instead. Not that it will matter anyway; just as All About My Mother was the shoo-in last year, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is going to walk away with this one. Leave this one to the Fascists to destroy.

Final Verdict: D-.

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originally posted: 01/06/01 06:24:14
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User Comments

8/30/07 anand vey good flm .......oh monica 5 stars
7/31/04 Camos enjoyable to watch, certainly easy on the eye 4 stars
7/10/04 raj Its a great movie 5 stars
3/28/04 john sweet and honest and very funny in parts too - sensational music! 5 stars
3/18/03 natasha_theobald sweet youth made mature by war 4 stars
1/07/03 Mitsaso My favorite film ever...Oh Monica... 5 stars
6/13/01 salvo I wish I was a lemmon 4 stars
2/19/01 Moshe You american-If it doesnt suits your "order"Of how a movie shold look like You Say Its bad 5 stars
1/07/01 Ramsay Harrowing and disturbing but with characters and situations that unfortunately ring true. 4 stars
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  10-Nov-2000 (R)
  DVD: 10-Jul-2001


  25-Oct-2001 (M)

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