Italian film series “Sacred Duties: Films by Ermanno Olmi”
Seven films by recently deceased Italian filmmaker Ermanno Olmi (1931-2018) will show between July 6 and August 17 at the Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque. The series, entitled “Sacred Duties: Films by Ermanno Olmi,” consists entirely of English-subtitled 35mm film prints from Italy that are in the U.S. only until August. (Film at Lincoln Center presents a more extensive Olmi retrospective June 14-26 in New York City. Cleveland and New York are the only U.S. cities showing these movies at this time.)
The films will show over seven consecutive Saturdays in the Peter B. Lewis Theater of the Cleveland Institute of Art, 11610 Euclid Avenue. Admission to each movie is $14; $11 for Cinematheque members, CIA and CSU I.D. holders, and those age 25 & under. Free parking for filmgoers is available in CIA Lots 73 and 74, both off E. 117th Street south of Euclid Avenue.
Born in the Lombardy region of northern Italy, Ermanno Olmi was the son of peasants who moved to Milan for jobs as a train driver and a textile worker. He made his first films while employed by the Italian electric company Edison Volta. As head of their film division during most of the 1950s, Olmi directed or supervised over 40 industrial and documentary shorts for the company, and in 1959 made his first full-length film for them, TIME STOOD STILL. This auspicious feature debut, which opens the Cinematheque series on Sat., July 6, at 7:30 pm, charts the relationship between an older man and a younger man who spend the winter together guarding an unfinished hydroelectric project in the Alps.
Olmi soon left Edison Volta to pursue his feature filmmaking career. As a latter-day neorealist, he brought with him a longstanding empathy for the common worker. Labor became Olmi’s primary concern in subsequent films, and he explored this theme via straightforward, down-to-earth, humanistic stories enacted by nonprofessional actors and recorded with direct sound—unusual for a national film industry used to post-synchronous dubbing.
Olmi’s humble beginnings in the rural North also instilled in him a devotion to the Catholic faith. He embraced the Church’s left-leaning social justice teachings of the 1960s. Moral questions and spiritual values permeate his works, some of which are political and religious allegories. So does a reverence for God’s natural world, and for the seasons of life (perhaps best seen in his 1978 Cannes Palme d’Or winner THE TREE OF WOODEN CLOGS). Olmi found holiness in humanity, hard work, and nature.
Three of Olmi’s most celebrated films (IL POSTO/THE JOB, THE TREE OF WOODEN CLOGS, and THE LEGEND OF THE HOLY DRINKER) are not included in the Cinematheque’s short series because each of them played Cleveland recently. (They are readily available on disc and through streaming services.) The Cinematheque’s focus is on seven other major works from the first half of Olmi’s career (the heyday of the director’s international acclaim, fame, and influence), none of which is distributed theatrically in the U.S. All prints are courtesy of the Istituto Luce Cinecittà.
For further information, call John Ewing or Genevieve Schwartz at (216) 421-7450, visit cia.edu/cinematheque, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
SACRED DUTIES: FILMS BY ERMANNO OLMI
July 6 – August 17
SAT 7/6 7:30 PM TIME STOOD STILL
SAT 7/13 7:30 PM THE FIANCÉS
SAT 7/20 7:35 PM ONE FINE DAY
SAT 7/27 5:00 PM IN THE SUMMERTIME
SAT 8/3 5:00 PM THE CIRCUMSTANCE
SAT 8/10 6:35 PM KEEP WALKING
SAT 8/17 6:50 PM LONG LIVE THE LADY!
Saturday, July 6, at 7:30 pm
TIME STOOD STILL
IL TEMPO SI È FERMATO
Italy, 1959, Ermanno Olmi
Ermanno Olmi’s celebrated first feature focuses on two very different individuals—a middle-aged man and an adolescent boy—who spend the winter in the snowy Italian Alps as caretakers of an unfinished hydroelectric dam. Though at first they don’t hit it off, they come to respect and like each other. Scope print imported from Italy! Subtitles. 83 min.
Saturday, July 13, at 7:30 pm
Italy, 1963, Ermanno Olmi
This early film by Ermanno Olmi is an underseen gem. A young man agrees to leave Milan and his fiancée to take a better, temporary job in Sicily for 18 months. Thinking separation will be good for their relationship, he soon finds himself lonely and pining for his betrothed. Can this future marriage be saved? Nonprofessional actors enhance the authenticity, beauty, and poignancy of this simple human story. Print imported from Italy! Subtitles. 77 min.
Saturday, July 20, at 7:35 pm
ONE FINE DAY
UN CERTO GIORNO
Italy, 1968, Ermanno Olmi
A philandering advertising executive at the pinnacle of his career suddenly finds his life upended by an unfortunate accident, forcing him to reevaluate his work and values. In this movie, Ermanno Olmi applied his famous empathy and compassion for working proles to the management.class. Color print imported from Italy! Subtitles. 105 min.
Saturday, July 27, at 5:00 pm
IN THE SUMMERTIME
aka DURING THE SUMMER
Italy, 1971, Ermanno Olmi
In Ermanno Olmi’s funny, whimsical fable, a poor, timid loner takes it upon himself to bestow fake titles and custom-made coats of arms to ordinary people who, in his mind, possess a certain nobility. Then the authorities clamp down… “Real Olmi magic.” –Time Out Film Guide. Color print imported from Italy! Subtitles. 105 min.
Saturday, August 3, at 5:00 pm
Italy, 1973, Ermanno Olmi
Acclaimed by critic Derek Elley as “a romantic highpoint in [Ermanno] Olmi’s oeuvre” and “his most accomplished piece of work,” this undistributed-in-America drama chronicles the crises that fracture an upper-middle-class Milanese family one summer at their country home. It also details the natural forces that might restore balance to their strained existence. Color print imported from Italy! Subtitles. 97 min.
Saturday, August 10, at 6:35 pm
aka WALKING, WALKING
Italy, 1983, Ermanno Olmi
Ermanno Olmi’s follow-up to his 1978 Cannes Palme d’Or winner The Tree of Wooden Clogs is an epic road movie: an almost three-hour retelling of the journey of the Magi, incorporating both New Testament stories and the legends that have built up around them. Olmi is no sanctimonious pedant, so his film, cast with non-professionals, is a down-to-earth, humanistic, even irreverent account of a tale long lost to piety. Color print from Italy! Subtitles. 171 min.
Saturday, August 17, at 6:50 pm
LONG LIVE THE LADY!
LUNGA VITA ALLA SIGNORA!
Italy, 1987, Ermanno Olmi
Ermanno Olmi’s surreal, allegorical comedy (one of his best films) is set in a crumbling castle where a group of naïve young people work as hired help for an elaborate (and somewhat sinister) formal dinner party attended by members of society’s cultural elite and hosted by the manor’s mysterious, cadaverous matron. “Italy’s most brilliant film comedy.” –Dennis Grunes. Color print from Italy! Subtitles. 115 min.