Picture Sicily, 1941: a beautiful spring day in the sleepy village of Castelcuto. In the wider world, Mussolini has declared war on France and Britain, but for narrator Renato Amoroso (Sulfaro), this was the day he got his first bicycle, caught sight of the irresistible Malèna (Bellucci) and fell in love. He was 13. Deposited in the village by her new husband (away fighting for the Fascists), the sultry siren becomes an object of desire for the local men - and scorn for the women - as she takes her daily strolls across the square in outfits designed to highlight every curve. Renato's lust and youthful imagination allow his cinematic fantasies to take over, and he secretly nominates himself as her protector, who will wreak vengeance on detractors. Tornatore's film resorts to shameless sentimentality even as it paints an unsympathetic portrait of small town cruelty and hypocrisy. But the voyeuristic fetishisation of Malèna - who hardly speaks, whether to defend herself or to offer a glimmer of personality - makes for uncomfortable viewing. On the plus side, the cinematography is beautifully executed. But Tornatore has yet to recapture the magic of Cinema Paradiso.
Cast and crew