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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Malena
Malena
Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
List Price: Unknown [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Aaron Beierle | posted July 19, 2001 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

All filmmakers occasionally have their ups and downs, such is life. Celebrated foreign filmmaker Giuseppe Tornatore ("Cinema Paradiso") returns with "Malena", a coming-of-age story that lacks a certain amount of charm, mainly because the characters are often rather mean-spirited and more often than not only vaguely realized. The film stars Monica Belluci as Malena, an incredibly beautiful and curvy young woman whose husband is killed in the war. Every male in the small village wants to be with her and every woman in the town dislikes her because she gets all the attention. Like many beautiful women in arthouse movies, she remains oblivious to the attention, going about her business as if she didn't realize she was practically causing traffic accidents.

The other main character in the movie is Renato (Giuseppe Sulfaro), a 13 year old boy who, like the rest of the males his age, fantasizes about Malena. Only when he fantasizes about her, she appears more like a starlet out of some romantic drama from the 50's. The scenes where the boy dreams about and watches Malena from afar are generally amusing, but the little story seems to glide onwards without much of a point for most of its running time; the scenes of Malena walking down the street and attracting the attention of the townsfolk become rather repetitive after awhile - we get it, she's hot.

After a while though, things turn rather darker for Malena after the scandal from the townsfolk begins to tarnish her image and forces her to quit her job - things even get worse for poor Malena. Renato desperately wants to defend the honor of his fantasy girl, but can't quite get the courage together to speak out on her behalf. It's an odd choice to have a character of importance in the film hardly speak - we really don't get to know Malena all that well before we're thrown into some kind of trial where she's questioned for adultery. What was generally a comedy (although with little actual humor) turns into something more dramatic and even less interesting.

"Malena" did receive nominations for best cinematography and best score and those notices are rightly deserved, but there's not much else that comes through too successfully throughout the film. The performances are generally fine, but there's not much insight into the characters, even, suprisingly, the title character herself.


The DVD

VIDEO: "Malena" is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen from Buena Vista. Although generally a very good looking transfer, tehre are some minor flaws to speak of throughout the movie. Sharpness and detail are quite good, and it's impressive to watch how well the fine architecture on display throughout many of the scenes is captured. A scene or two during the film looked slightly on the softer side, but these were brief, rare moments.

The picture appeared remarkably clean. It's always seemed to me that, more often than not, some independent films - even newer releases - aren't always quite as well taken care of. Thankfully, this didn't seem to be the case as the picture remained free of marks, scratches, hairs or even speckles. Where my few areas of concern lied were with a couple of scenes that showed slight edge enhancement and a couple of traces of pixelation. These were minor flaws though, and didn't really present that much of a worry.

Colors often appeared gorgeous, as the movie presents some absolutely beautiful scenery. Colors looked rich, bold and well-saturated, with no instances of smearing or other problems. Aside from a couple of minor bumps, "Malena"'s video quality appeared as lovely as Malena herself, star Monica Belluci.

SOUND: "Malena" is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 Italian and 5.1 French, with English subtitles. As one might expect, "Malena" puts the 5.1 platform to little use beyond the film's score and dialogue. A few scenes involving crowds as well as an attack sequence (which is fairly well done for an indie film, I might add) use the surrounds to a fairly good extent, but otherwise, the surrounds remain either subtle or silent. Audio quality remained fine throughout, as the dialogue and lovely score came through clearly and naturally.

MENUS:: Basic, non-animated menus livened by pictures of Belluci.

EXTRAS:: Three TV spots, the theatrical trailer and a 10 minute "making of" documentary, with interviews from the director and cast.

Final Thoughts: "Malena" was a fair film with some entertaining moments, but also some rather unfortunate choices in the way that the story was told. The film receives a fine presentation with excellent video quality and fine audio quality, along with a couple of decent extras. Fans of the movie will be generally pleased with the DVD, but for those who haven't seen it and are interested, the overpriced ($32.99) DVD might be better obtained as a rental first.

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