(Click here for Internet Movie Database entry)

This is a little Italian film very reminiscent of The Summer of 42 and also of parts of Tea With MussoliniMalena is a story, set in World War II Sicily, of a teenage boy (Giuseppe Sulfaro) whose sexual awakening is centered on a beautiful married woman (Monica Bellucci) who lives in his town.  Like Tea With Mussolini, the boy is growing up in Italy during the war and acts as the eyes of the audience as he sees everything that happens, good and bad.  But the plot is much more like The Summer of 42, where the woman's husband is a soldier away at the front and the boy falls obsessively in love with her.  However, unlike The Summer of 42,  in Malena the boy's only real contact with the woman of his dreams is through his vivid fantasies.  The action follows the woman and the boy from the beginning to the end of the war.  It is reported early on that the woman's husband has been killed in action and her life becomes a struggle to survive as the townspeople, already jealous of her beauty, begin to turn on her.  The boy, while upset by what happens to his love, is never able to intervene on her behalf until near the end of the story.  The film is beautifully shot in Siracusa in Sicily and is a nice recreation of the life in Italy during the war without a lot of the histrionics of Tea With Mussolini.  In addition to the coming-of-age plot, the film deals with the problems of a woman without a man in a closed society much as The House of Mirth did.  However, I definitely felt like I had seen this all before and I was never pulled into the story emotionally.  Sulfaro is good as the boy and Bellucci looks good as the object of his desire.  Among the supporting cast, Luciano Federico stands out as the boy's father.  The music is done by cinema legend Ennio Morricone who did the scores for A Fistful of Dollars, Once Upon a Time in America, and many, many more (396 films according to the Internet Database).  Malena is in Italian with subtitles that are not quite as readable as the nice ones in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.  I have to say that I was tempted to look at my watch during the film which I almost never do (Robin almost always does).  So I can't say I was enthralled.