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Amidst the outbreak of World War II, Renato, a young Sicilian boy, becomes infatuated with beautiful war widow Malena. Malena is leered at by men, reviled by women and eventually suffers greatly for her beauty. Ever-watchful Renato does not come to her aid but, nevertheless, learns a valuable lesson about courage.
For more about Malèna and the Malèna Blu-ray release, see Malèna Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on March 18, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Starring: Monica Bellucci, Giuseppe Sulfaro, Luciano Federico, Matilde Piana, Pietro Notarianni, Gabriella Di Luzio
Director: Giuseppe Tornatore
» See full cast & crew
Malèna Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, March 18, 2013
The uncut version of Giuseppe Tornatore's "Malena" (2000) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Korean distributors GreenNarae Media. The supplemental features on this release include original trailers and TV spots; making of featurette; interviews with director Giuseppe Tornatore and composer Ennio Morricone; documentary film; and more. In Italian, with optional English and Korean subtitles for the main feature. Region-Free.
Giuseppe Tornatore's Malena is set in a small Sicilian town and tells two stories. The first is about a young and stunningly beautiful woman, Malena Scordia (Monica Bellucci, Irreversible, Sanguepazzo), the daughter of the town's respected and almost completely deaf Latin teacher (Pietro Notarianni, executive producer, The Damned). The second is about a young boy, Renato Amoroso (Giuseppe Sulfaro), who becomes obsessed with Malena.
Malena is married but her husband has gone to war. Living alone and struggling to make ends meet, she is now desired by every man and despised by every woman in the town.
One day, Renato sees Malena heading to the market place and immediately falls in love with her. He begins spying on the beauty and fantasizing about the day when he would be old enough to make love to her. He doesn't know exactly how, but has a pretty good idea – because his friends, all of whom are masters in the fine art of masturbation, have already taught him invaluable lessons.
Meanwhile, Malena's husband is reported killed in action and the single men in the town immediately proceed to impress her. A few married ones also try their luck. Malena is forced to accept some of their gifts because she is starving and penniless.
When the Germans arrive in town, Malena, together with a local prostitute, begins flirting with them. Renato is seriously disappointed but understand why Malena does what she does – she has to survive. He also prays for her and vows to protect her as best as he can.
Eventually, the Germans leave the town, the Americans arrive, and the war ends. Then, the town's angry women decide to teach Malena a lesson she would never forget, while the men, many of whom have tried and failed to share Malena's bed, decide to keep quiet.
The two stories the film tells are quite different. The first is charming and light, at times outrageously funny. It is the story of a boy coming of age while the world around him is also rapidly changing. The second story is dark and sad. It is about a beautiful young woman, but also about Sicilian traditions, honor, and customs. The two stories are closely intertwined, but their messages are indeed quite different.
The version of the film offered on Studio Canal's Blu-ray release, reviewed here, is heavily edited, with virtually all of the cuts affecting the first story, and specifically Renato's dreams and fantasies (most of which show Malena seducing or making love to Renato). This shorter version of the film runs at approximately 92 minutes, and it was the version of the film Miramax distributed on DVD in the United States.
The uncut version of Malena offered on this Korean release runs at approximately 108 minutes. Initially, it was available on DVD only in Italy, courtesy of local distributors Medusa (see here). Later on, Korean distributors Spectrum also released the uncut version of the film on DVD (their release is essentially an NTSC-encoded replica of the Italian PAL-encoded release; see here). Unlike the Italian DVD release, the Korean DVD release is English-friendly. However, interestingly enough, the uncut version of the film can only be seen as intended by director Tornatore if one turns on the English subtitles on the disc. If one turns on the Korean subtitles, plenty of the footage that is missing from the Miramax cut release is optically censored. The new and fully uncut Blu-ray release of Malena reviewed here is not optically censored.
Note: In 2001, Malena won Best Cinematography Award (Lajos Koltai) at the David di Donatello Awards as well as Silver Ribbon Award for Best Score (Ennio Morricone) granted by the Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists.
Malèna Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, the uncut version of Giuseppe Tornatore's Malena arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Korean distributors GreenNarae Media.
The uncut version of this beautiful film has very little in common with the cut version, which StudioCanal released in the United Kingdom last year. The drastically different color-scheme, in particular, is virtually identical to the one observed on the old Korean DVD release, which also boasted very strong, at times overwhelming yellows and browns. Obviously, detail and clarity are dramatically improved, but contrast levels are once again elevated. Furthermore, the daylight footage on the uncut version essentially looks like it was taken from an entirely different film - colors, brightness levels, and shadow definition are completely different. The range of black levels is also different. Naturally, with such massive discrepancies it is difficult to tell which of the two versions has the more accurate look. However, and this is strictly speculation on my part, I tend to believe that the uncut version, with its lush yellows and browns, is far closer to how director Tornatore intended Malena to look because in his rural Italian films (The Star Maker, Baarìa) bright yellows and browns are always prominent colors. Moreover, while not problematic, compression on the uncut version could have been better. For example, during select close-ups light artifacts are easy to see (see screencapture #13). On the other hand, there are no traces of excessive degraining and sharpening corrections. Unsurprisingly, when viewed in motion the film does have a relatively stable organic look. Lastly, there are no serious stability issues to report in this review. Also, there are no large damage marks, debris, cuts, and warps. All in all, the presentation of the uncut version of Malena isn't flawless, but it represents a substantial upgrade in quality over the old R3 uncut DVD version of the film. With that in mind, and considering how incredibly difficult it has been to see Malena uncut, I think that this new Korean Blu-ray release is well worth importing. (Note: This is a Region-Free Blu-ray release. Therefore, you will be able to play it on your PS3 or SA regardless of your geographical location).
Malèna Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There is only one standard audio track on this Blu-ray disc: Italian DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. For the record, GreenNarae Media has provided optional English and Korean subtitles for the main feature. When turned on, they appear inside the image frame.
The lossless track does not disappoint. I did a few quick comparisons with my R3 DVD release and could immediately tell that Ennio Morricone's beautiful score sounds lusher and crisper. However, you should keep in mind that this isn't a film that will test the muscles of your audio system - it has a good range of nuanced dynamics but the sound is never overly aggressive. The dialog is crisp and clean. Also, there are no pops, cracks, dropouts, or distortions. The English translation is good.
Malèna Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Note: All of the supplemental features on this Blu-ray release are perfectly playable on North American Blu-ray machines, including the PS3.
Malèna Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Seeing all the excitement this new Blu-ray release of the uncut version of Giuseppe Tornatore's beautiful film Malena generated is a bit strange. It felt as if I went back in time, shortly after 2000, when the first uncut Korean DVD release from Spectrum arrived on the market. I can vividly remember how excited a lot of people were to see the film no one saw theatrically on this side of the Atlantic. Now everyone gets a second chance to see the uncut version of Malena on Blu-ray, and once again thanks to a Korean distributor. While I think that there is room for some key improvements, the Blu-ray release undoubtedly represents a solid upgrade in quality over the old R3 DVD release. It is well worth importing, folks. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
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