Friday, 1 July 2011

La cotta (1967) - Ermanno Olmi

Great solid short film (49 minutes), from Italian master Ermanno Olmi. Surprisingly this was made for Italian TV back in '67. Not that you'd know that by watching it, but then Olmi already had 3 features under his belt by the time he did this.

The miniscule plot revolves around a 15 year old Barton Fink look-alike, who like Woody Allen uses his charms rather than his rugged good looks to woo the opposite sex. He seems to be quite a player too, until he meets and falls for a young French dame. From then on she's the one for him. With New Years Eve approaching he makes his move and makes her promise to see in the New Year with him. However when he turns up to pick her up, she's already gone to a party. So despite the worst fog ever (even the taxi driver can't see anything and ends up getting out of the cab to find some tram lines to follow), our young Romeo decides to swallow his pride and go after her. How will it end?

If you've seen Il posto then you'll know what to expect, Olmi creates those awkward teenage moments so well. He also comes up with enough sweet ideas to melt even the coldest heart, having the girl lean in and mist up our hero's glasses with her breath before their first kiss, being the first that comes to mind. I loved the trick for nicking the dads Gin too. It looks great too, all real locations and visibly influenced by the then liberating French New Wave. Could that be why he falls for a French girl rather than an Italian? Just a thought. I love the moments in the back of the cab when our boy drifts into his head and imagines what his first love is up to.

The acting is naturalistic, and I presume most of the cast were kind of new to the craft if you know what I mean. Olmi is also brave enough to skip chunks of the story in order to focus on the bits that are interesting. So there are no real expositional scenes, at first it feels like a bit of jolt as one scene crashes straight into another despite the fact that time has passed. After a few minutes though it just feels fresh and makes the film skip along at a wonderful pace. Highly recommended.

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