Blu-Ray Review: The Tree of Wooden Clogs

Director: Ermanno Olmi
Screenplay: Ermanno Olmi
Starring: Luigi Ornaghi, Francesca Moriggi, Omar Brignoli
Country: Italy
Running Time: 187 min
Year: 1978
BBFC Certificate: 12

The Tree of Wooden Clogs, a film often described as plotless, running a little over three hours and following the lives of peasants in Italy during the end of the 19th Century, doesn’t sound particularly appealing on the surface. I must admit I had second thoughts about requesting a screener due to this, but strong reviews talked me into it and I’m glad they did, as The Tree of Wooden Clogs proved to be a wonderful film that I enjoyed watching far more than I expected.

The film is set in 1898 and follows the lives of five peasant families living together in one farmstead in the Bergamo region of northern Italy. They work hard tending the land for their landlord who owns most of what they have. Using non-actors from the region, writer/director Ermanno Olmi creates a detailed and naturalistic observation of the lives of these people. I wouldn’t call the film entirely plotless though as some have suggested. In observing life on the farmstead, we are presented with several family dramas that play out during the course of the film. One important thread which is introduced in the film’s opening and plays a part in the climactic scenes, sees the young son of one family accepted into school due to a perceived high level of intelligence. Going to school was rare for peasant families in these days and the boy’s parents don’t seem keen on the idea due to the expense and what the neighbours would think. However, their local priest recommends it, so they send him 6km every weekday to the nearest school house. This has consequences further down the line that I won’t spoil here.

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Friday One Sheet: Vertical Space

Cannes is happening now, and as per every year it looks like the festival has a diverse and wonderful line up. This includes the latest from “New Greek Weird” standard bearer, Yorgos Lanthimos. And the poster designed for its festival debut is easily my favourite one sheet of the year. Look at those glorious vertical lines, that create a medical space that absolutely dwarf Colin Farrell. White matting, and some strange varied typesetting on the mouthful of a title, which of course involves an animal, as per Lanthimos’ previous films, Dogtooth and The Lobster. Speaking of the latter, Farrell was so good in that film as the dumpy protagonist, he is again collaborating with the director. If this poster is any indication of the tone and style, expect great things for The Killing of A Sacred Deer.

Friday One Sheet: Cannes 2017

The Cannes film festival has been on this particular design the 2006 poster of Maggie Cheung re-purposed from In The Mood For Love. That is to say, highlight the star, make it look glamorous and warm. Since about 10 years ago, things have been getting ever more minimalist, and, simply, it just works.

Despite a small imbroglio regarding the thinning of Ms. Cardinale’s figure (in reality, it is the entire source photo pinched/width adjusted, not just the actresses slightly thigh), the photo indeed captures the joy that a certain kind of cinema, The Cannes kind, is meant to project out to the world. It’s a lovely poster of an iconic actress is a warm expression. I get the concern about idealized body image, but in this case, idealizing a movie star (at the peak of her youth) for the purposes of reinforcing the notion of the most glamorous festival in the world, it is kind of the point to have the photos lie a little bit, c’est non? It’s a sticky subject, as will it ever be…photos are art, and art is lies that tell the truth, and possibly vice versa.

If you are curious, here are the Cannes posters for the past 70 or so years.

Friday One Sheet: The Neon Demon

The aesthetics of Nicolas Winding Refn’s recent run of films have lead to interesting and ‘out of vogue’ colour palettes. And yet, his ‘glossy and difficult’ cinema always feels fresh and gives the impression that it will back in vogue. Here, for Cannes festival poster for The Neon Demon, we get a spectacular collision of sparkly golds, reds and purples. And a neon skull in the typeface. It is also worth mentioning how effortless Elle Fanning pulls off a very low cut dress with intrigue and attitude.

Trailer: The Neon Demon

I‘m all in for Nicolas Winding Refn’s dark, glittery horror-fantasia of the global modelling scene, The Neon Demon. The film was just announced to play Cannes, and here is the trailer. It appears to straddle the line between accessible but arty Drive and flat out esoterica of Only God Forgives

When aspiring model Jesse moves to Los Angeles, her youth and vitality are devoured by a group of beauty-obsessed women who will take any means necessary to get what she has.

The film also stars Keanu Reeves, Christina Hendricks and Jena Malone and will be getting a regular release in June.

Cannes 2016 Lineup! It’s chock-a-block!

It appears to be a great year for international cinema, if the line-up for Cannes is any indication. New films from Nicolas Winding Refn, Woody Allen, Jeff Nichols, Park Chan-Wook, Steven Spielberg, Andrea Arnold, Ken Loach, Pedro Almodovar, Olivier Assayas, Hirokazu Kore-Eda, Shane Black, Jim Jarmusch, Paul Verhoeven, The Dardennes Brothers, and young canuck, Xavier Dolan. And that is just getting started.

Woody Allen’s star-dense Cafe Society will kick off the festival on May 11th with the following films playing in competition.

“Toni Erdmann” (Maren Ade)
“Julieta” (Pedro Almodovar)
“American Honey” (Andrea Arnold)
“Personal Shopper” (Olivier Assayas)
“The Unknown Girl” (Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardennes)
“It’s Only The End Of The World” (Xavier Dolan)
“Slack Bay” (Bruno Dumont)
“Paterson” (Jim Jarmusch)
“Staying Vertical” (Alain Guiraudie)
“Aquarius” (Kleber Mendonça Filho)
“Mal De Pierres” (Nicole Garcia)
“I, Daniel Blake” (Ken Loach)
“Ma’ Rosa” (Brillante Mendoza)
“Bacalaureat” (Cristian Mungiu)
“Loving” (Jeff Nichols)
“The Handmaiden” (Park Chan-Wook)
“The Last Face” (Sean Penn)
“Sierra Nevada” (Cristi Puiu)
“Elle” (Paul Verhoeven)
“The Neon Demon” (Nicholas Winding Refn)

The rest of the line-up (those out-of-competition for the Golden Palm) are tucked under the seat.

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Mondays Suck Less in The Third Row

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John C. Reilly closes out Cannes like a Boss

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Trailer: Arabian Nights

Playing at Cannes in three separate 2 hour parts, Miguel Gomes (Tabu) examines contemporary Portugal with dozens of short stories in the structure of the classic Arabian Nights structure. Gorgeously shot, but I’m sure ponderously pace, this is certainly not going to be for everyone, but I also expect if you get the chance to watch all six hours of it together, it will probably be a very rewarding experience.

A film that asks “Where are stories born?” and answers, “They spring from the wishes and fears of man.”

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Friday One Sheet: A Perfect Day

The temptation, when you have a big name ensemble is to splash their faces on your poster, either through a series of boxes down at the bottom, or floating heads. This is why I like the design of this poster so much, it is almost if the cast of the film, including Benicio Del Toro, Olga Kurylenko, Time Robbins and Mélanie Theirry are staring at you in challenge to watch the film. Well, either that, or you are the dead body they are leaning over. Just by camera angle this poster is immediately provocative.

The story from Dr. Paula Farias’s novel “Dejarse Llover,” was adapted for the screen by director Fernando León de Aranoa and involves a group of aid workers try to resolve a crisis in an armed conflict zone.

For your pleasure, I have also tucked the trailer under the seat.

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Cannes 2015 Line-up!

As always, the Cannes Line-up is brimming with promise and the leading qualities of World Cinema. Joel and Ethan Coen are heading up this years jury, and they have new films from Hirokazu Kore-Eda, Yorgo Lanthimos, Hou Hsiao Hsien, Todd Haynes, Paolo Sorrentino, Gus Van Sant, Denis Villeneuve and Jia Zhang-Ke in the Official Competition on which to pick the Palm D’Or Winner.

Emmanuelle Bercot’s Standing Tall is the fest opener and not in competition. Also out of competition is George Miller’s Fury Road, Pixar’s Inside/Out, this year’s Woody Allen film, Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s latest, Journey To The Shore, and in her debut as director, a film from Natalie Portman.

The full line-up is tucked under the seat.

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