A narrator recalls his turbulent childhood in small-town Sicily during World War Two, and in particular the impact of a woman on his development. The unobtainable object of his desire is Malèna (Monica Bellucci), a young widow whose beauty arouses the envy - and hatred - of the locals. The young Renato (Guiseppe Sulfaro) takes every chance to gaze at Malèna, but can't stop her tragic demise...
Wildly uneven, this glossy melodrama from Cinema Paradiso director Giuseppe Tornatore begins as a bawdy portrayal of teenage infatuation - - cue farcical scenes of furious masturbation - - before turning into a denunciation of Fascist-era bigotry.
The Morricone score and the sun-drenched cinematography are designed to stir the senses, but unfortunately the fetishistic treatment of Bellucci, whose character is practically mute and frequently disrobed, suggests an element of sexual exploitation on the part of the film-makers.
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