Malèna (2000)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Malèna</strong> (2000)

(In French, On TV, October 2015) Something strange and unpleasant happens during Malena, which starts as the story of a boy’s infatuation with what’s quite obviously presented as the most beautiful woman of his small WW2-era Italian village.  The first chunk of the film feels endearing and nostalgic, light and only creepy in the way that young men think back about their first big crushes.  The subjective nature of the story being told can sometimes take almost absurdly comic turns (Such as when Malena turns every male head, causes car crashes, sends men in uncontrollable lust) and the gentle rhythm of the film suggests a far different film that the one we then get: Because as soon as Malena becomes a war widow, her situation in the small village society becomes untenable: out of desperation, she turns to prostitution with the fascist elites, something that turns her life into living hell once they are ousted from power.  The tragedies don’t stop there, as further cruel twists pile on and definitely sour the film.  In retrospect, the story told in Malena is predictable in its own way… just not the one that the film initially suggests.  This narrative rug-pulling aside, Malena does leave an impression.  Few other actresses than Monica Bellucci could credibly pull off a “most beautiful woman in the world” kind of role, but she makes us believe.  The film is usually shot well, clearly mixing subjective sequences and fantasies with the rest of the story, often cruel and mean-spirited.  It could have been more enjoyable had it stuck to is comedy beginning, but that’s quite obviously not the story that was meant to be told.

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