October 2 – October 16

THE WHISPER OF THE GENERATIONS: ERMANNO OLMI’S REALIST CINEMA

Please note: The films for this season will begin at 6pm.

The richly characterised films of Ermanno Olmi (1931–2018) span over 60 years and alternate between fiction and documentary, period realism and modern fable, the use of non-professional actors and, in later years, many prestigious stars. Yet a recognisably deep humanism and empathy runs unerringly throughout his diverse output. His films are anchored in the formative lessons learned making documentaries for his energy company employer in the 1950s, while still in his 20s. Combined with his admiration for the neo-realist masterpieces of Roberto Rossellini and Vittorio De Sica, Olmi made empathetic use of his own past experience, the environment around him and that of the peasants and workers of northern Italy in his work.

By the end of the ’60s, and after the release of such masterworks as Il posto and I fidanzati, he had established an international reputation for revealing and intimate portrayals of the individual’s struggle to maintain identity and dignity under the pressures of work, poverty and socio-religious expectation. His low-key but committed Catholicism exists in parallel with his strong sense of social justice and political commitment. The recipient of many international awards, revered by his peers and popular throughout his homeland, Olmi stands as one of realism’s most masterly yet gracious practitioners: “The cinema is life, and life is the cinema for me.”

This season of imported 35mm prints features many of Olmi’s key works including his initial string of social-realist masterpieces, the Palme d’Or-winning opus that defines his popular and critical reputation, The Tree of Wooden Clogs, and his magisterial adaptation of Joseph Roth’s classic novella, The Legend of the Holy Drinker.

All films are 35mm prints courtesy of Cinecittà Luce.

Co-Presented with the Italian Institute of Culture
Italian Cultural Institute - Melbourne

October 9

6:00pm – IL POSTO

Ermanno Olmi (1961) 93 mins Unclassified 15+*

Olmi’s celebrated second feature has little in the way of a conventional story but is endowed with a quiet, truthful humour and concentrated, atmospheric observation of everyday life. Though its style is pointedly unadorned, the film has a precise sense of timing and reveals Olmi’s brilliant talent for capturing the comic, pompous and sometimes sad way people behave. This coming-of-age study of a young man’s first job, and his journey from a small village to the facelessness of Milan, both reinvigorated neo-realism and established Olmi as a key director of modern Italian cinema.

35mm print courtesy of Cinecittà Luca.


7:45pm – THE LEGEND OF THE HOLY DRINKER

Ermanno Olmi (1988) 128 mins PG

Winner of the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival, Olmi’s spare but often comic adaptation of exiled Austrian writer Joseph Roth’s celebrated 1939 novella is a wonderfully measured and poetic parable of a homeless alcoholic (Rutger Hauer) living on the streets of Paris. Gifted 200 francs, with the proviso that he “returns” the money when he can afford it to a chapel dedicated to St. Thérèse, this dreamlike vision of the city and those who inhabit it is both a typically gritty Olmi creation and an unusually lyrical and textured opus. Beautifully shot by Dante Spinotti (L. A. Confidential).

35mm print courtesy of Cinecittà Luca.

With thanks to Mediaset Group/RTI for permission to screen the film.


October 12 (Saturday)

3:00pm – CAMMINA, CAMMINA
Ermanno Olmi (1983) 171 mins G

Olmi’s follow-up to The Tree of Wooden Clogs is a vast and irreverent epic shadowing a village of Tuscan peasants who re-enact the biblical Journey of the Magi. Olmi evokes something of Pier Paolo Pasolini’s The Gospel of St. Matthew in a fascinating attempt to find the spiritual or religious sublime in the “authentic” faces of his cast comprised entirely of non-actors. A great favourite of Australian film critic John Flaus.

35mm print courtesy of Cinecittà Luca.

October 16

6:00pm – TIME STOOD STILL
Ermanno Olmi (1959) 83 mins Unclassified 15+*

Originally commissioned by the Edisonvolta company to make a documentary showcase of its new hydroelectric dam, Olmi instead turned in this spirited and spiritual docu-drama, his first feature film. A comedy about intergenerational tension set high up in the Italian Alps, where an older caretaker and his greenhorn assistant are left to bond after an avalanche isolates them from the outside world, Olmi’s debut showcases his neo-realist eye for the ordinary – and extraordinary – details of life, qualities that would inform much of the director’s celebrated later work.

35mm print courtesy of Cinecittà Luca.


7:35pm – THE CIRCUMSTANCE
Ermanno Olmi (1973) 97 mins Unclassified 15+*

The life of an upper-class Milanese family is thrown into existential disarray after the mother of the family, a lawyer, witnesses a shocking road accident, becoming obsessed with the victim. Olmi’s bold mid-career experimentations with modernist narrative and formal devices are in full-flight here with the film unfolding primarily through ellipsis, tableux and flashback. Despite the fragmented and at times jarring composition, Olmi’s remains focused on the detailed lives of his characters, and their individual confrontations with unsettling questions about empathy, humanity, society and class.

35mm print courtesy of The National Film and Sound Archive (Australia).

February 5
OPENING NIGHT

February 12 – February 26
VITTORIO DE SICA: CINEMA, ITALIAN STYLE

March 4 – March 18
LIGHT AND SHADOW: THE MERCURIAL STARDOM OF MARLENE DIETRICH

March 23 – April 6
CAST A DARK SHADOW: THE BEAUTIFUL SADNESS OF DIRK BOGARDE

April 13 – April 29
THE BIG CARNIVAL: THE FILMS OF BILLY WILDER

May 6 – May 20
“LIFE’S PARADE AT YOUR FINGERTIPS”: DOUGLAS SIRK

May 27 – June 10
WILDFLOWERS: DANCING, DESIRE AND FREEDOM IN THE FILMS OF GILLIAN ARMSTRONG

June 17 – July 1
DRIFTING STATES: THE FILMS OF APICHATPONG WEERASETHAKUL

July 8
AT HOME IN THE WORLD: CECIL HOLMES, ACTIVIST FILMMAKER

July 15 – July 29
HIROSHI SHIMIZU: FORGOTTEN MASTER

September 2 – September 16
JEAN COCTEAU: THE POETRY OF DREAMS

September 23 – September 30
QUEERING THE ARCHIVE: THE CINEMA OF BARBARA HAMMER

October 7 – October 14
GALLOWS BACCHANALIAS, FRACTIOUS FAIRY-TALES AND THE RULE OF THREE: THE CINEMA OF JURAJ JAKUBISKO

October 21 – November 4
REACHING BEYOND THE FRAME: THE POETIC CINEMA OF ABBAS KIAROSTAMI

November 11 – November 25
BORSCHT, SAUERKRAUT, GOULASH AND LEMONADE: AN INTRODUCTION TO OSTERNS AND RED WESTERNS

December 2 – December 16
THE LAND IS OURS: YOUSSEF CHAHINE