Monica Belluci’s Mesmerizing Role
The struggles of a beautiful Italian woman in World War II-era Sicily are laid bare in Giuseppe Tornatore’s artful and passionate Malèna. Starring Monica Belluci in her absolute prime, she dazzles in a commanding screen performance worthy of an Academy Award. Malèna netted two Oscar nominations but deserved more, one for its sun-drenched cinematography and one for its classy score from legendary Italian composer Ennio Morricone.
Probably best known for his Academy Award-winning Cinema Paradiso, Giuseppe Tornatore crafts an unforgettable coming-of-age tale set in a small Sicilian town around Renato (Giuseppe Sulfaro). On the same day Italy enters World War II in 1940, the twelve-year-old boy first encounters the stunningly beautiful Malèna (an inspired casting in Monica Belluci). He soon develops an intense crush on the mysterious older woman who comes from another region. Her husband has left for the war, leaving Malèna behind in a town full of strangers with her very elderly father.
Malèna is thoughtful, spellbinding cinema, often moving and heartfelt
Malèna is thoughtful, spellbinding cinema, often moving and heartfelt
Lusted after by every man in town, Malèna becomes the subject of malicious gossip and false rumors as her life falls apart through no fault of her own. Surreptitiously spying on her from afar, only the young Renato knows the full truth of her honor and faithfulness.
Malèna is thoughtful, spellbinding cinema, often moving and heartfelt. Laden with an earthy sense of humor and palpable sensuality, the fully uncut Italian version plays out as a nostalgically bittersweet remembrance of the country. As Malèna’s plight grows worse and worse, you slowly realize Belluci’s character is a metaphor for Italy’s cruel fate under Fascism during the war. All seen through the eyes of Renato as he slowly comes of age from adolescence to adulthood.
Monica Belluci is a revelation. She had small Hollywood roles before Malèna but her tragic portrayal and stunningly sexy performance brought her international fame, turning Belluci into a global beauty icon. Masterly directed, the small Italian film resonates with playful energy working on multiple levels.
If you’re looking for Monica Belluci in her most carnal role, Malèna is quite unforgettable. The movie’s poignant story and gripping storytelling make for one of Italian cinema’s most unheralded masterpieces, a symphony of pure cinematic brilliance artfully coming together.
Imprint licenses the 2000 Miramax property employing a tastefully proper transfer of the original uncut Italian version for this solid HD presentation. The main feature runs a full 108 minutes, encoded in strong AVC on a BD-50. Retaining the intended 2.35:1 theatrical aspect ratio, Imprint claims the transfer is derived from a 2K scan of the negative. Clarity and definition are quite nice, offering fine grain reproduction and steady black levels.
The sun-soaked, Oscar-nominated cinematography shows off the healthy-looking film elements and a rich, well-saturated palette done in the days before digital color grading. The cinematography is mildly soft, reflecting older matte special effects used for Renato’s often vivid fantasies of the ravishing Malèna. Detail in the 1080p video shows no sign of high-frequency filtering. A touch of telecine wobble can be noticed in the opening credits.
The uncut Italian version of Malèna looks excellent on Blu-ray. Imprint has done highly credible work bringing the gem to BD with film-like fidelity and faithful colors. It earns high marks considering the vast improvement seen over the woeful DVD released back in the 2000s. I don’t have the older Korean Blu-ray on hand for a direct comparison but Imprint’s release holds up with today’s better catalog transfers.
5.1 DTS-HD MA Italian audio is filled with a wonderful score by the great composer Ennio Morricone and stout dialogue reproduction. The surround mix is basic but amplifies the movie’s more vivid passages, including the town’s crowded city streets. Morricone’s score gently swells and expands across the entire soundstage.
There’s a touch of immersion and dynamics are fairly strong for a small Italian production from the early 2000s. Music lovers will appreciate how the surround channels are used with sparing levels of separation. It’s a powerful score with both bottom and top end polish.
Optional English subtitles, a translation of the original Italian audio, play in a white font outside the scope presentation.
Malèna is #227 in Imprint’s Collection, arriving in the best English-friendly release on Blu-ray for the acclaimed film. The disc is coded for all regions despite Imprint technically being an Australian label.
Most importantly, the original uncut Italian version is here instead of the butchered cut made by Miramax. Harvey Weinstein in his infinite wisdom chopped out many of the suggestive and explicit scenes featuring Monica Belluci for Miramax. Limited to 1500 units, Imprint’s BD arrives in an attractive slipcase.
There’s a nice allotment of archival special features which explore the production through interviews with Giuseppe Tornatore. About the only thing missing is a new commentary by director Giuseppe Tornatore, which currently can only be found on the new Italian DVD release from last year.
Malèna is a Miramax property in North America, so the only official release it has seen in the States is an ancient, practically bare-bones Buena Vista DVD. I’d strongly recommend acquiring this Imprint release before it sells out, there is no telling if Paramount (the current label handling Miramax titles) ever issues the film themselves.
The Life & Dream of Giuseppe Tornatore (52:56 in SD; Italian with English subtitles) – The director’s personal story and background forms the basis for this engaging 2000 documentary on the filmmaker. There’s private footage from his youth and more in this intimate documentary.
The Making of Malèna Featurette (11:03 in SD)
On Location Featurette (35:26 in SD) – A behind-the-scenes peek at filming the movie in Morocco.
Interview with director Giuseppe Tornatore (09:15 in SD) – Discusses how they turned Morocco into Italy.
Interview with director Giuseppe Tornatore and composer Ennio Morricone (22:30 in SD) – A discussion of the scoring with the two friends.
In Studio (21:35 in SD) – Recording the score with composer Ennio Morricone.
Malèna Theatrical Trailer (01:23 in SD)
Malèna TV Spots (01:36 in SD)
Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided by the label for review. This has not materially affected DoBlu’s editorial process. For information on how we handle all review material, please visit DoBlu’s about us page.
Truly one of international cinema’s great gems, Monica Belluci’s unforgettable performance made her a global sex symbol
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The following six screen shots serve as samples for our subscription-exclusive set of 37 full resolution, uncompressed HD screen shots ripped directly from the Blu-ray: