The Tree of the Wooden Clogs

In Wheeler Auditorium

Admission: $2.50

“Ermanno Olmi's The Clog Tree - winner of the Palme d'Or at the 1978 Cannes Festival - is a comely, episodic work that swells to a kind of grandeur at the end. Set in Italy's Lombard region just before the turn of the century, it focuses on the cares, pleasures, and rituals of a family of tenant farmers who beg shelter and education from the wealthy landlord. The subject may sound suspiciously like that of Bertolucci's 1900, but in truth the films have little in common - with the Olmi more tender, more resigned, and ultimately the more successful of the two. Where 1900 is self-consciously historical, The Clog Tree is steeped in the rhythms of everyday life: meals, work, death, marriage, prayers, and - for the fortunate gifted child - school. It's a cinematically luxuriant and elegiac film, as pointedly indifferent to drama as it is sensitive to detail. And it is not, I suspect, coincidence that the little incident - a man's felling of the landowner's tree to produce shoes for his school-age son - occurs more than midway through a loosely-knit narrative. Like Olmi's earlier and more pungent Il Posto, The Clog Tree is concerned with lives a rung above penury and with the demands that physical labour exacts of the fragile soul. There are infelicitous moments, but on the whole Olmi's superb control of pace, and affection for his characters, render a series of often familiar incidents fresh and very moving....”

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