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Thursday, February 20, 2014

I fidanazti ("The Fiances") (1962) d. Ermanno Olmi

I fidanazti ("The Fiances") (1962)
d. Ermanno Olmi
Criterion Collection #195

  One thing I've learned in the past three or four months is that queues are no way to organize serious movie watching.  You don't want to be watching movies off a list you generated how ever many months ago.  Maybe at my highest rate of consumption I could watch five films in a week- that's like all of my television time for the entire week AND all the time I might spend in a movie theater- and it's only five films.  Making a queue that contains 50 films means that you will be living with a night's worth of addition for two to three months, and that is no way to live.

  From here out I'm going to rely on the Criterion Collection Hulu Plus page itself to suggest the films, and abandon the queue approach to keep some kind of spontaneity and freshness into every nights selection.  I fidantzi, which translates into The Fiances, is in theory about the relationship of a factory foreman promoted to help with a troubled plant in Sicily.  Having watched the film itself, I would have to say that the film is about the workers in a factory in southern Italy, and the life of the Milanese foremen sent to "reeducate" them/indoctrinate them into the world of the industrial work force.

   Visually, the most striking scenes take place inside the factory, and the bulk of the relationship material seems to be in the last twenty minutes of the film.  It almost felt like an attempt to make a movie about small town Sicilian factory workers into a romantic melodrama.   Stylistically, the other hallmark of I fidanazti is the "dance hall scene" -in the story it's a melancholy moment prior to the fiances being separate by his work re assignment, but it possesses a found footage quality that marks it as "realistic;" like Olmi just stuck his camera into a local dance. The effect is striking on the viewer with the kinetic energy giving that portion of the film a feeling unusual for the films of the early 1960s.

  Was I Fidantzati ever released in the United States for theaters?  The Rotten Tomatoes page for the film has no contemporary reviews.  The Wikipedia page says that it played in New York in 1964, but it appears that it wasn't reviewed by the New York Times.

  It's obvious that you would group Olmi with the school of Italian Neo Realism, though the director himself takes issue with that analysis in his accompanying interview for this film, "that this is the artistic tradition he is responding against because, he claimed, he used non-actors in authentic locations whereas neorealism used professional actors."  Well, whatever, Ermanno Olmi, I know Italian Neo Realistic cinema when I view it and this movie is an example of Italian Neo Realism.

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