Malèna (Blu-ray Review)


The Film
The Video
The Audio
The Supplements


Under the fascist rule of Italy during World War II, a 13-year-old boy in a small Sicilian town becomes infatuated with the beautiful war bride Malèna, whom the town's women despise.

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

In 2000’s Malèna, filmmaker Giuseppe Tornatore (The Legend of 1900, Cinema Paradiso) brought his form of Italian romanticism, and Fellini-esque storytelling to this World War II erotic romantic comedy about a boy coming of age and obsessing with the town’s most despised woman.

It’s World War II Sicily under the rule of the fascist Mussolini government, and 13-year-old Renato Amoroso (Giuseppe Sulfaro) and his group of friends enjoy spending their days riding their bicycles near the seashore and following the beautiful Malèna Scordia (Monica Bellucci), daughter of one of their schoolteachers, whose husband is off fighting in Mussolini’s army. Renato becomes obsessed with Malèna’s beauty and wants to find out more about her private life. While on his own, Renato takes to following Malèna around town, spying on her in her home, and having vivid erotic fantasies about her. Meanwhile, Malèna’s beauty leads to jealousy from the women of the town whose husbands and boyfriends all like to flirt with her, do favors for her, and try to have sexual dalliances with her. This latter point leads to a violent and tonally out of place public shaming of Malèna.

This release from Imprint Films is of the uncut original Italian version. The American release of the film was edited by ten minute, due to the nudity and sexual content between the underage Renato and Malèna. This is also what makes the film not reach the same levels of Tornatore’s previous works. While it is about Malèna’s unfair treatment and the young infatuation with her by Renato, the film ends up exploiting the main character more than presenting her sympathetically. There are fantasies involving Malèna of her being employed in a brothel, for instance. Renato’s obsession with Malèna also feels more perverted – and this is encouraged – than anything innocent. It is made to be humorous that he steals her lingerie to put on his head while pleasuring himself, for instance. Why he is obsessed with her beyond her beauty and the swirling rumors of her promiscuity is never addressed.

Despite the flaws, Tornatore’s film is still beautifully filmed and visually unimpeachable, just as Cinema Paradiso. The quiet, seething erotic performance from Bellucci who has few lines of dialogue at all in the film also helps to keep the film riveting. Like Renato, viewers, especially straight men, will be unable to take their eyes off of her and her magnetic performance.

  • Giuseppe Sulfaro in Malèna (2000)
  • Monica Bellucci in Malèna (2000)
  • Giuseppe Sulfaro and Monica Bellucci in Malèna (2000)
  • Monica Bellucci in Malèna (2000)
  • Malèna (2000)
  • Giuseppe Sulfaro in Malèna (2000)
  • Giuseppe Sulfaro in Malèna (2000)
  • Malèna (2000)
  • Malèna (2000) – Imprint Collection #227
  • Malèna (2000) – Imprint Collection #227

The Video

Malèna comes from a 2K scan of the original uncut Italian version. There is no information provided on the provenance or age of the transfer, but given how it looks, I do not think it is the most thorough or up to date restoration. The latest I could find is a 2021 Blu-ray release in the UK from Paramount, but I do not know when that transfer is from either. The image here looks a bit soft and shows a little bit of wear in the source like scratches and dirt. The color is fine, however, with a warm glow and good contrast that shows just some hints of crush in the shadows.

The Audio

Malèna comes with an Italian DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 audio mix on this Blu-ray from Imprint. While the sound has a wide and natural dynamic range with clean dialogue, the use of the surround channels is overdone. The wonderful score is spread across all the channels and sounds too ‘hot’ in the surround channels, almost at the same level as the fronts, giving it a very reprocessed sound.

The Supplements

There are no new bonus features included with this release, but the interviews, documentary, and ‘making of’ are all interesting to watch.

  • The Life & Dream of Giuseppe Tornatore (720p; 00:52:56) – Documentary
  • The Making of Malèna (720p; 00:11:02)  Featurette
  • On Location (720p; 00:35:25) – Behind-the-scenes
  • Interview with director Giuseppe Tornatore (720p; 00:09:14)
  • Interview with director Giuseppe Tornatore and composer Ennio Morricone (720p; 00:22:30)
  • In Studio (720p; 00:21:53) – Recording the score with composer Ennio Morricone
  • Theatrical Trailer (720p; 00:01:23)
  • TV Spots (720p; 00:01:35)
  • Limited Edition slipcase on the first 1500 copies with unique artwork

The Final Assessment

Malèna is a beautiful if slight film, full of eroticism and gorgeous cinematography. The Blu-ray from Imprint does not reach top tier reference quality, but it is watchable and comes with a strong slate of previous released bonus features.

Malèna (2000) – Imprint Collection #227 is out June 28, 2023, from Imprint Films

  • Rating Certificate: Australia:M
  • Studios & Distributors: Medusa Film | Miramax | Pacific Pictures | Tele+ | Imprint Films
  • Director: Giuseppe Tornatore
  • Written By: Giuseppe Tornatore | Luciano Vincenzoni
  • Run Time: 108 Mins.
  • Street Date: 28 June 2023
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Video Format: AVC 1080p
  • Primary Audio: Italian DTS-HD MA 5.1
  • Subtitles: English

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Under the fascist rule of Italy during World War II, a 13-year-old boy in a small Sicilian town becomes infatuated with the beautiful war bride Malèna, whom the town's women despise.Malèna (Blu-ray Review)