Malena, set in Sicily during World War II, offers the gorgeous sight of Monica Bellucci in the title role. So it seems churlish to complain that writer-director Giuseppe Tornatore (Cinema Paradiso) is covering territory better marked by Federico Fellini and Vittorio De Sica. Bellucci is a stunner who recalls Sophia Loren in her ripe, voluptuous prime. Malena, the wife of an absent soldier, tries to maintain her distance from the lustful gazes of men in the town of Castelcuto. But no male is immune, especially thirteen-year-old Renato (Giuseppe Sulfaro), who pops a hard-on whenever she walks by. Apparently she sparks the same reaction in the director, who shows her walking by in high heels at every opportunity. The script travels the usual coming-of-age route for the boy and the coming-to-ruin route for the beautiful, prostituted Malena. Nothing new here except model-turned-actress Bellucci. To call her noteworthy would be an understatement.
From The Archives Issue 290: May 3, 1979