Giuseppe Tornatore's new film belongs to the genre I call the "bella donna" movie, a specifically Italian romp that depends on sunshine, whimsy and plentiful close-ups of a woman's ass. In Malèna, I counted six.It's Sicily, 1940. Renato is a teenage boy, as itchy and remorseless as his classmates, but with a romantic streak. One day he gets a gander of Malèna. She's not only beautiful, but she's been alone ever since her husband went off to war. With the dedication of a stalker, Renato sets out to immerse himself in her world.
He spies on her. He dreams about her. When a man maligns her, he spits in his drink. When a woman spreads rumours, he pees in her purse. And when Malèna's husband dies in the war, he steals a pair of her mourning panties.
Am I supposed to like this kid?
The fact that men make most of the world's movies has countless consequences. A film like Malèna may not be the worst, but it's sure one of the most annoying.
Rarely does this film allow its title character her own point-of-view shot, let alone a point of view. When small- town hatred destroys her, Tornatore stages a lavish spectacle of humiliation. But it means nothing, because we know nothing about her beyond the shape of her backside.
This movie's earthiness is fake, and its spontaneity forced and showy. It's typical of Tornatore, a director with a chronic dependence on cheap sentiment. I can only imagine that Malèna is producer Harvey Weinstein's favour to Tornatore, who earned millions for Miramax with Cinema Paradiso.