"A hybrid fable about the cosmic interconnectedness of all things and a document of rural daily existence, Italian director Michelangelo Frammartino's beguiling Le Quattro volte (The Four Times) presents life as cycle and the earth as circuit, a feedback loop of matter and quiet splendor." Benjamin Mercer in Reverse Shot: "Frammartino and his cinematographer, Andrea Locatelli, employ the static long shots and extended single takes used by so many contemporary makers of documentary-inflected, landscape-fixated fiction features, from Lisandro Alonso to Jia Zhangke, to tell a story of the transmigration of a soul from a man to a goat to a tree to a burlap sack of charcoal — the almost complete absence of dialogue also underscores the primacy of the visuals (and of voiceless living beings) in Le Quattro volte. The film's events all take place in the Calabria region of Italy, marked by rolling hillsides and intact medieval villages, and once the home of the first famous vegetarian, Pythagoras, whose ideas about metempsychosis here find a well-modulated celluloid incarnation."
"It's a silent movie with sound, perhaps," writes the L's Mark Asch, "especially with its deadpan choreography — first of the ornery goats and then, in a single swiveling overhead take tracking back between the action in town and at the annual passion play, on a far-off hill, a dog which must be seen to be believed, hitting its marks, barking on command, and carrying out a Buster Keatonesque slapstick setpiece."
Michael Tully at Hammer to Nail: "In any other context, three of these segments would feel utterly superb; yet compared to the film's towering second section, the rest just can't compete. Actually, if you were to take the last shot of that first segment, a one-take tour-de-force that is worth the price of admission alone, and combine it with the entire second section in which a baby goat is born and begins to make his way in the world, I wouldn't hesitate to bestow upon it 'all time great' status."
"The goats also give the film its richest moments of humor, many of the jokes based on seeing them act more human than humans." Aaron Cutler at the House Next Door: "Once the animals vanish, the visuals grow less inventive, turning more frequently to shots of trees swaying or men cutting them down. Slant's Andrew Schenker appropriately compares these work scenes to those in the Argentinean film La Libertad, much of which consists of a man cutting wood. Schenker uses La Libertad to club Le Quattro Volte, though, with the claim that Le Quattro Volte rushes through the work, leaving the workers underdeveloped. Yet if Frammartino let the woodcutting play out in real time, he'd risk suggesting the workers as more powerful than the wood."
Ed Champion finds The Four Times to be "compelling, philosophical, and often quite beautiful in its bucolic splendor."
Tom Hall "was completely smitten with it, carried away by the images, by the commitment to simple camera moves and long, generous takes, to the feeling the film inspired in me that cinema, like all great art, can deliver a transcendent emotional experience of the world."
More from Howard Feinstein (Filmmaker) and Keith Uhlich (Time Out New York).
Earlier: Reviews from Cannes; and Daniel Kasman, also very impressed by that dog.
Coverage of the coverage: NYFF 2010. For news and tips throughout the day every day, follow The Daily Notebook on Twitter and/or the RSS feed.