The great Italian director Ermanno Olmi, who passed away last year at the age of 86, made films for over 60 years and yet is best known, if at all, for his four masterpieces: Il posto (1961), I fidanzati (1963), his Palme d’Or winning Tree of the Wooden Clogs (1978) and The Legend of the Holy Drinker (1988), to the exclusion of almost everything else that he made. So the upcoming retrospective at New York’s Film at Lincoln Center, which starts next Friday, is most welcome. Unfortunately it does not include the many documentary short films that he made at Edison Volta in Milan in the early 1950s, but it does include all 19 feature films from his debut Time Stood Still (1959) through to his final fiction film Greenery Will Bloom Again (2014). Olmi has long been a personal favorite of mine and I can’t recommend this series highly enough; only three of his films are readily available in the US while the others are nearly impossible to see.
Richard Roud, who was a great champion of Olmi, and selected many of his lesser known films for the New York Film Festival during his tenure there, wrote in his Cinema: A Critical Dictionary in 1980, “It seems to me that Olmi is one of the most important directors of the 60s and 70s and yet his films are just not very widely appreciated, and for the life of me I can’t figure out why. It’s not as if they were hard to understand, or remote in their subject-matter.”
The best posters for Olmi’s films inevitably cluster around his most celebrated films, especially Il posto, which inspired a wonderful variety of designs. But there are gems for some of his lesser-known works, such as Andrzej Bertrandt’s abstract design for One Fine Day (1969). From the late 1980s onward, as Olmi’s star waned, the posters become less interesting, though he continued to make marvelous films, all of which I urge you to discover.
The Olmi retrospective runs from June 14–26 at Film at Lincoln Center.