Monday, April 11, 2011

Le Quattro Volte

One thing that can be said about Michelangelo Frammartino’s highly touted Le Quattro Volte, currently playing at Film Forum, is that it probably didn’t require a casting director. (There are no stars or roles that seem to need interpretation by a professional actor.) Another thing that can be said about the film is that it is probably as far removed from the sophisticated repartee of a classic comedy like The Philadelphia Story as any film in the history of cinema. (There is no dialogue.) If we are talking about Italian cinema, this film has nothing to do with politics like The Conformist, history like The Leopard or the sexuality like Salo. One reaction to Le Quattro Volte might be the response Jackson Pollack paintings used to elicit amongst unsophisticated audiences, to wit, “I can do that.” In this case the “that” would be employing time-lapse photography in a natural setting to record the behavior of a herd of goats or watching wood being turned into coal, two of the central actions of the movie. What then is the difference between Le Quattro Volte and Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom? The answer might be that such programming is more aestheticized, while the whole point of Le Quattro Volte seems to be to do for the basics of life and death what Lars von Trier did in the Dogma 95 movement’s approach to dramatic cinema, which was to remove artificiality of any sort. In this case, it involves filming the natural in the most natural way possible. But then there are curious little touches such as the anarchic behavior of the animals when their caretaker dies. It is in moments like this that Le Quattro Volte represents a surprising and even disconcerting shift from our preconceptions about how reality can be represented on screen.

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