Archive for Guiseppe Tornatore


Posted in DVDs, Hollywood, Other Languages with tags , , , on May 20, 2014 by Roshan Mathew

I like re watching good movie or revisiting a favorite book or a piece of art, mostly because I consider them a yardstick of how much I have changed as a person or how my understanding and perception of something has shifted as I grow older and hopefully wiser. I found myself just as moved by it as a coming of age movie and slightly peeved and ashamed some 13 years later.

It is written and directed by Guiseppe Tornatore and has the gorgeous Monica Belucci as Malena. It is narrated by Renato(Guiseppe Sulfrano), a 12 yr old boy who lives in a small village in Sicily. Three life changing things happen to him in one day. He gets a bike, Italy goes to war and he sees the village beauty Malena and is instantly, irrevocably in love. Malena’s husband Nino Scordia, has gone off to war and every man in the village, irrespective of their age wants to “comfort” Malena, the devastaingly gorgeous, lonely, grieving wife. For Malena her beauty really is a curse. She cannot find employment as most of the men don’t want to hire her, being scared of the wrath of the women in their lives, be it be their mother or wife. Everyday as Malena makes her way to the employment agency, the whole town is a at a standstill. The men ogle, dream and sigh, while the women spew vitriol against this woman whose only crime is beauty. Renato follows the object of his wet dreams incessantly and is the only one in the whole village who knows the real Malena. Malena gets the devastating news that her husband Nino has been killed in the war. Renato is the only one who witnesses Malenas grief. He prays that God keep Malena safe from the villagers till he grows up, so that he can take care of her. The news of Nino’s death blows hope into the hearts of the men in town. After the mourning period, Malena starts seeing an officer openly and this inflames the men as they have been passed up. Malena is wrongfully sued by the town dentists wife for committing adultery with her husband. As she has no money she is forced to avail of pro bono services from Centorbi, a lawyer, who extracts payment by raping her. Centrobi wishes to marry Malena, but his plans don’t come to fruition when his mother refuses to allow it. Malens father dies and her only income dries up. War comes to the town and she is forced to go into prostitution to feed herself. The villagers watch smugly as all their rumors become reality and they see Malena selling herself to Germans. They congratulate themselves on being astute judge of character. When the American come in after the war, the villagers mets out biblical justice by stoning her in the piazza and cutting her hair. Renato is heartbroken for Malena and watches her leave town.

As Renato’s coming of age movie, it is a pleasurable, funny, astute depiction of a hormonal adolescent. Even while overcome with his boyish lust for her he is always filled with tenderness and he wants to take care of her and protect her from all the evil townsfolk. Having seen his first and deepest love being treated so badly, makes Renato a much more compassionate, understanding and respecting lover of women.

As a woman I was a little peeved and ashamed at the level of vitriol, jealousy and insecurity that the women of this village display towards Malena. And I felt that the men in this movie, even if they carry out all the objectifying and raping ,is very conveniently depicted as victims of Malena’s inhuman beauty. It’s this uncontrollable lust for this sexy siren, that the women react to with so much venom and I felt the men were absolved of any responsibility for their actions or thoughts. I realize that Tornatore meant for this to be taken as a gross exaggeration of the reaction of a few. And that it would’ve compromised the integrity of the narrative if he had a couple of the women in the village showed some compassion or a couple of men who are not in thrall of Malena’s beauty. Sadly I have to agree that his assessment of female pshyce is not too far off the mark. I hope us women would make some more effort in supporting our fellow sisters, both the beautiful ones and the not so beautiful ones.

If you are in the mood for a great adolescent boy coming of age movie your time will be more rewarded if you spend it watching Cinema Paradiso. It is more Felliniesque Italian than Malena is. Malena is definitely worth a watch. Tornatore is very good at showcasing the nuances of human behavior, especially an adolescent’s life. Both Malena and Cinema Paradiso are great in this respect.