Oct 7, 2009

11th Oct 2009; Ermanno Olmi's Il Posto

Il Posto
A film by Ermanno Olmi
Country :Italy
Year: 1961
Italian with English subtitles
Runtime:93 min
11th Oct 2009
Ashwin Hospital Auditorium
Call : 94430 39630

Olmi’s Il Posto is much more than just a Neorealist film. Like de Sica’s Bicycle Thieves (1948), Olmi’s Il Posto transcends the dimensions of Neorealism and stands as one of the great and universal films of any era.. There are several factors that contribute to the virtues of Il Posto – the cinematic craftsmanship, the affecting and natural acting, and the compelling narrative, itself, which is not just about a particular people at a particular time, but about the very nature of modern life.
Il Posto depicts the hopes and uncertainties of Domenico, a 19-year-old boy from a working-class family who has left “middle school” and is looking for his first job. He takes the train to the big city, Milan, hoping to get an office job at a large company.

The character of Domenico is of course the central force in the film, and it is partly his own diffident nature that defines the questionable value of the job-for-life goal. His slowness to react, whether it's to answer questions or to take action, make us wonder if he is capable of ever moving beyond a job with the company once he has it. His actions in respect to the young woman Antonietta, in whom he becomes interested, lack the resolve and fervour needed to get what he really wants. Something will have to change in him to make him ever move beyond the job-for-life once he has it. The role is nicely played by a somewhat sad-faced Sandro Panseri.
Plot is deceptively simple, but every frame of pic is rich with shadings and nuances. Olmi's keenly observant camera is of major assistance, as are his actors. Olmi's genius in Il Posto is in his beautifully composed, lingering shots. Whether in a medium, hand-held, or close-up, Olmi studies a face or a scene long enough for us to see its platitudes with subtle power. Domenico's face is a landscape of emotion, though heavily suppressed — in small smiles, dejected eyes, and embarrassed blushes, we virtually watch him grow before our eyes. Some critics couldn't stomach Olmi's passive Domenico, but there's nothing pathetic about him, he's just a shy, confused person right at the start of life.
Martin Scorsese borrowed shots from Il Posto for Raging Bull, and there are similar echoes in Clockwatchers (director Jill Sprecher credits Olmi as an influence on that film), Office Space, and Time Out. It's startling to notice that, before computer cubicles, desk jobs were just as dismal 40 years ago as they are today

Ermanno Olmi

“...our wars of machines and technology make 'progress' ever more impersonal and deadly - a 'progress' that has not guaranteed man's human, moral, and civil growth.”

Ermanno Olmi ranks as one Italy’s finest film makers. He is known for making realistic films about the lives of average people that are infused with an almost austere subtlety and rare ambiguity that is sympathetic yet not overly sentimental. A native of Bergamo, Italy, he was the son of peasant factory workers.

Following his father’s death during WWII, Olmi and his mother supported the family working in the Edison-Volta electric plant where Olmi worked as a clerk. While there, he became involved in company-sponsored filmmaking and theatrical projects. Most of the films he made for the company had industrial themes. Eventually, he came to head the company film department and over the next seven years made many documentaries, notably his last Edison-Volta film, Il Tempo Si E Fermato (Time Stood Still), in 1959. It was with this film, a chronicle of the relationship that gradually developed between an elderly nightwatchman and his assistant while stationed at the construction site of an Alpine dam, that evidenced the sensitivity that would characterize Olmi’s later works.

The success of the film led Olmi to become a feature filmmaker. To that end, he traveled to Milan and co-founded the Twenty-Four Horses, an independent film co-op where he made his semi-autobiographical feature-film debut with Il Posto in 1961. Both this and his subsequent effort, I Fidanzati (The Fiancés) (1963), quickly earned him a good reputation and led him to make his one mainstream film, And There Came a Man (1965), an epic biography of Pope John XXIII. Unfortunately, this film, the only one in which he did not use nonprofessional actors, was a box-office flop and after making one more feature, Olmi became a television director. He did not make another feature until 1978. The film was The Tree of Wooden Clogs, a complex interweaving of the lives of five peasant families struggling to survive, and is considered Olmi’s finest work.

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