Monica Belluci plays the title character in Malèna, probably the first movie that allowed American audiences to see this beautiful actress. To no surprise, she plays a beautiful woman who finds looks are not always an advantage.
The movie actually follows the life of Renato (Giuseppe Sulfaro) during the summer of 1941. Renato is a teenager and just beginning to become interested in women - when he sees Malèna walking down the street one day, he instantly falls in love. Of course, every other man in town has also fallen in love with her and gossip soon spreads among the jealous women of the town that she's taking men into her bed, despite her marriage to a soldier. Renato knows the truth as he likes to watch her through a hole in her wall, but he also gets to see her descent into darkness. Once her husband is killed in combat, the rumors grow and she is shunned from the city. Her only hope of survival is through men who take advantage of her, but things only get worse from there.
Despite its description, Malèna is an entertaining and sometimes funny tale of youthful love. At the same time, it is a moral story that says even the best of people can become corrupted. It works as a drama. It works as a comedy. It just works. Period.
Malèna is an Italian film and thus is subtitled, but boy is it worth it. Not only is Belluci beautiful, but the story is wonderful and engaging. I've seen few redeeming movies in the last week - this was easily my diamond in the rough.
If you like foreign films, Malèna is a must-see.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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