88 minutes

Milanese director Michelangelo Frammartino's sophomore feature has become the arthouse darling of the year since its low-key unveiling at the Cannes 2010 Directors Fortnight. It has also become a little bit of a cause célèbre due to the obvious division between those who have given in to its "slow cinema" charms and those who feel it has been boosted beyond its actual worth. Either way you look at it, though, Le Quattro Volte is an immense achievement simply using a thin fictional veneer and an overarching conceptual framework to harness an essentially documentary exploration of the quiet life in a remote Calabrian village (home to the director's own family).
     The film's title is derived from Pythagoras' approach to the cycle of life through which all consciousness goes, made visible by mr. Frammartino as a "relay race" from man (a dying shepherd) to animal (a newborn kid goat), vegetable (a fir tree) and mineral (charcoal bricks) — from ashes to ashes in under 90 minutes, through a series of often silent, beautifully poetic long takes whose cumulative impact is a lot stronger than taken individually. There is a sense that the Italian director is marshalling forces he quite can't control yet. The goat segment is far too Disneyfied for comfort — though that may not so much be mr. Frammartino's fault as our own viewer experiences and prejudices brought to bear. The playfulness of the first half (and especially of the bravura shot of the village procession) is replaced in the second by a more traditional documentary tone, and the general structuring may be far too eliptical for its own good. But the sheer adventure of such a theoretical, cerebral object that deliberately flaunts the "official" borders of cinematic genres, and its rigorous construction, are enough to warrant the viewer's attention.

With Giuseppe Fuda, Nazareno Timpano, Bruno Timpano, Artemio Vellone, Domenico Cavallo, Santo Cavallo, Peppe Cavallo, Isidoro Chiera, Iolanda Manno, Cesare Ritorto.
     Directed and written by Michelangelo Frammartino; produced by Marta Donzelli, Gregorio Paonessa, Susanne Marion, Philippe Bober, Gabriella Manfré, Elda Guidinetti, Andres Pfaeffli; director of photography (Augustuscolor), Andrea Locatelli; production designer, Matthew Broussard; costume designer, Gabriella Maiolo; film editors, Benni Atria, Maurizio Grillo.
     A Vivo Film/Essential Filmproduktion/Invisibile Film/Ventura Film presentation/production; with the support of the Italian Ministry for Cultural Goods and Activities, Torino Film Lab, Eurimages programme; with the contribution of Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg, Fondazione Calabria Film Commission, Calabria Region; in collaboration with ZDF-ARTE, Cinecittà Luce, RSI Swiss Television; associate producers, Altamarea Film, Caravan Pass; with the collaboration of Rome Lazio Film Commission and Capital Regions for Cinema; with the support of the Serra San Bruno city hall. (Italian distributor, Cinecittà Luce. World sales, Coproduction Office.)
     Screened: distributor advance DVD screener, April 25th 2011.


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