In the big butterfly collection of characters found only in movies, a prize pinion is the alluringly sublingual “she-bat.” A comely creature possessed of childlike inspiration and razor-swiping cruelty. On the verge, even “a little bit mad,” as the Danish specimen at the center of Ole Christian Madsen’s Kira’s Reason hushedly confesses to a party guest. In Kira’s case, the glass-pressed female rage of her unlucky phylum is compounded by dreary Copenhagen weather. But even Mediterranean sunshine can’t divert Betty Blue‘s magic-hour Rivieran or Respiro‘s Sicilian ultrafox from their archetypal purpose—arousing and depleting men who fetishize their fragility and just wanna follow them down.
Similar to other mute muses, Emanuele Crialese’s young wife and mom Grazia (glaring Valeria Golino in more-dangerous-than-shotguns mode) is a sex-on-wheels misfit whose naked swims and day-seizing impulses disrupt Lampedusa’s complacent island fishmongering routines. To her husband she’s a charge, to her sons a near incestuous id, and to her neighbors a menace—storming to the village pound, she literally lets the dogs out. But denied any apparent self-awareness, Crialese’s Galatea remains simply a hottie hothead, never graduating to meaningful anti-heroine.
The Cannes 2002 Critics Week award winner does succeed in its portrayal of island life. Its panoramas flaunt the stunning blue largesse, and its dockside dickering sloshes with the rhythm of low-yield exchange. It also revels in Sicilian dialect (a young policeman from the mainland asks Grazia’s daughter Marinella to translate for him). As Grazia’s husband Pietro, Vincenzo Amato is convincingly devoted, but it’s Filippo Pucillo who gives the youngest son such mellifluous southern sass that you wish the camera would abandon the whole woman-as-sadness retread and scooter off in his direction.