Some time last week my friend and colleague Damien and I were advised by Kevin, another colleague, to try “La Gondola” for lunch. “The food’s great, the service is good and fast, and one of the waitresses looks like Monica Bellucci,” Kevin said.
The pizza and spinach tortellini we had were quite good indeed. Regarding the lookalike waitress, we kept our eyes open but had a fundamental problem: neither of us knew who Monica Bellucci was and what she might look like. And, of course, we had not wanted to ask Kevin for elucidation before because that would have meant admitting to ignorance.
Yesterday afternoon I went downtown to mingle with the crowds, enjoy the sunny weather and do some shopping. I ended up spending about an hour in the city’s biggest DVD store and went home with two movies – Pedro Almodóvar’s Volver and Giuseppe Tornatore’s Malèna (2000).
Volver I’d missed at the movie theater when it came out in 2006, and Malèna I dimly remembered from a review I read years ago that had been full of praise. Judging by the cover, I expected some sort of light summer comedy with a nostalgic historical touch.
As it turned out, the movie solved the Monica Bellucci mystery (she is the star) and was not at all what I expected.
It is in fact a devastating portrayal of hypocrisy, chauvinism and small-town mentality, of what people can be like when faced with provocative beauty. Men lust after it and would rather destroy it if they cannot dominate and possess it. Women envy it, spread nasty rumors and turn into harpies. An excellent, beautifully photographed but rather disturbing gem of recent Italian cinema.
Monica Bellucci in “Malèna”
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