Tuesday, September 04, 2007

viff07: one hundred nails

Ermanno Olmi is the great overlooked Christian auteur, his films even harder to track down than Rossellini's (which reminds me: an Olmi retrospective is certainly in order). He's an Italian director most famous for THE TREE OF WOODEN CLOGS. I've only seen CAMMINA, CAMMINA, which uses non-professional actors (European auteurs love that) to tell the story of a bunch of peasants going on a long journey which turns out to be the journey of the magi to see the infant Jesus. GENESIS: CREATION AND FLOOD is supposed to be very interesting, another explicitly Christian film, and THE SECRET OF THE OLD WOODS is reputed to be a very significant work, Loren Wilkinson through and through. Now 76 years old, he's claimed that ONE HUNDRED NAILS is his last feature film. I figure Bresson, Dreyer, Tarkovsky, Rossellini are all dead: he's not of their mythic stature, to be sure, but highly regarded. I wanted to see SINGING BEHIND SCREENS, but it never did play here, far as I could tell: so this is a rare opportunity, however flawed the film might in fact turn out to be. (And don't get too worked up about the Da Vinci Code reference the blurb-writer trots out: there is simply no way this film by a man of the faith, an internationally renowned artist, will bear any real resemblance to the inanities we shall not mention again.)
One Hundred Nails
Italy, 92m
Sat6 19:00 PCP / Mon 8 21:30 G7 / Tue9 11:30 G3 (pg. 43)

In what he has vowed to be his last narrative feature, Ermanno Olmi goes out hammering. When One Hundred Nails begins, a librarian at the University of Bologna makes a shocking discovery: one hundred ancient volumes from the library's storied collection have been laid to waste, nailed to the floor and torn into pieces. All signs lead to an odd culprit--a young, well established university professor, lecturer of philosophy, who has vanished into thin air, leaving people to believe he has committed suicide after his crime. Actually, he has taken refuge in an old ruin on the banks of the Po river, where he enters into contact with the inhabitants of a nearby town, and is greeted as a sort of reincarnation of Christ. In turn, the professor learns to appreciate and love a simple life in contact with nature. But when the professor volunteers to pay a fine levied on the community for presumed unauthorized constructions on the Po, the Carabinieri find him out... Echoes of The Da Vinci Code abound in Olmi's last testament, which harkens back to some of his earliest work in its simplicity and divinity.

"Every story must have a leading character who becomes an ideal example for us: man or woman, in love's passion or caught up in hatred… So, WHOM should I talk about? WHOM have I got to know, amongst the throng of historical Greats who have made their mark on my life?…Is it too predictable to say Christ?"--Ermanno Olmi

Darren Hughes, who saw the film at TIFF, has this to say; "One Hundred Nails worked for me only in a few scenes. I think it's flawed conceptually."

And this from Doug Cummings; "Olmi's new film is certainly not as good as his last two films, "The Profession of Arms" and "Singing Behind Screens" (to say nothing of his illustrious career) but it is quite interesting as an auteurist work in the way it handles its themes of humanity vs. religion, and nature as a kind of Eden, as well as its relaxed tone, earthy humor, and excellent use of nonprofessionals."

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