From longing, from innocence, from her.
Time has passed, and I have loved many women.
And as they've held me close,
I've said, "Yes, I'll remember you."
But the only one I've never forgotten,
is the one who never asked:
There was a moment, at around 11pm, when I considered going to bed. That plan was soon laid to rest when a voice inside my head said "watch a film, watch Malèna." My film viewing decisions aren't always made by this particular voice, but when they are - it's like magic; I find myself watching films that I need to watch. Exactly why I need to watch them is often difficult to explain - it's like that magic moment you get sometimes on a random Thursday when you're in your car and just as you're about to flick over to another radio station a song comes on that you haven't heard since 1997 - and you realize, at that very moment, that the song is exactly what's been missing in your life. And what I needed, tonight, was 'Malèna.'
The film is about first love. Unrequited love. It's about a young boy called Renato (Giuseppe Sulfaro), who, like every man in his town, falls in love with the beautiful Malena (Monica Bellucci). What we soon realize is that the other men don't love her, they just want her. The men of the town want to have sex with her, and the women of the town spread vicious rumors about her. The only person who takes the time to get to know her and believe in her is Renato.
Renato and Malèna don't say a word to each other in the entire film - and that's what's so beautiful about it. It masterfully shows what it is to be a 14 year old who doesn't exist to the opposite sex - it shows the pain, the longing, the hope and the sad beauty of it. At the same time; there are far deeper and more painful things going on with Malena - whose husband died at war, whose Father disowned her and whose town was against her and eventually forced her out. I haven't followed much of Monica Bellucci's film work since; I find her Italian films hard to track down and her Hollywood efforts aren't the type of films I actively seek to watch -- but in this film, she is incredible. Sure, she's stunning to look at, but far and beyond that - she spends most of the film in silence, and her grace, elegance, heartbreak and sorrow are handled with subtlety and beauty in a way rarely seen since the silent era. Monica Bellucci, based on this performance, is extremely talented.
'Malèna' is written & directed by Giuseppe Tornatore who, along with Wilder, Chaplin and Woody Allen-- is amongst my favorite writer/directors. His work always speaks to me in a way that no other director really can. His films speak to my heart, to my hopes, to my dreams, to my ideals. I felt the inner-editor in me cringe as I wrote 'speaks to my heart' but then, if I can't speak about what speaks to my heart, then really, what's the point in living? A lot of people criticise his work as being too sentimental, too heart-warming. I'm not the type of person who can really take those words as a criticism. It works for me. He dares to have characters that are innocent, that are naive, that do good. There is a magic in 'Malèna' and 'Cinema Paradiso' that I've not found in the works of any other writer/director. Another thing about 'Malèna' is how outstandingly, outrageously, achingly beautiful it looks. Okay, it probably helps that they had Sicily as a location - but Lajos Koltai, the DP, deserves credit for the cinematography - I'd happily watch this film without sound just to take in the visuals.
The attention to detail in Tornatore's films is what really sets his work apart from others. Everything fits together so perfectly. The core of the crew have done a lot of films together; and it shows. The editing is absolutely perfect (Massimo Quaglia cut two of Tornatore's previous films and has continued to be his editor since) - and the film was also scored, as all of the Director's films are, by Ennio Morricone. Morricone's composing is perfect in everything he does, he's one of the all time greats - but to me, he feels most at home when working with Tornatore. The music in 'Malèna' is possibly my favorite film score -- and even tonight, when deciding to stay up and watch the film, part of the reason was that I really wanted to hear the music.
'Malèna' is about as wonderful as cinema can be. If you've ever found your filmic sensibilities to be similar to mine - then please consider my recommendation. That being: buy this film.