Olmi in 2013
24 July 1931|
5 May 2018 (aged 86)|
Olmi was born in Bergamo, in the Lombardy region in northern Italy. When Olmi was three years old, his family moved to Milan, where he attended a scientific high school and took acting classes at the Academy of Dramatic Arts. He became interested in filmmaking while he was working at the Milanese electrical company Edisonvolta, where he began by producing 16mm documentaries about power plants.
Olmi's films fit into the artistic mold of Italian neorealism, though Olmi would have argued (and did argue, in an interview found on the Criterion Edition DVD of his 1961 film, Il Posto) that this was the artistic tradition he was responding against because, he claimed, he used non-actors in authentic locations whereas neorealism used professional actors. However, many neorealist directors also used non-professional actors for secondary and sometimes even primary roles. His films, like most of those considered to be products of the neorealist movement, are shot in long, slow takes, and generally contain some sort of social commentary, though rarely do the neorealists wear their political opinions on their sleeves. Another film was I fidanzati.
Perhaps his best known film is The Tree of Wooden Clogs (L'Albero degli zoccoli), which was awarded the Palme d'Or at the 1978 Cannes Film Festival. The film drew heavily on Olmi's grandmother's stories about peasant life in agricultural regions of Italy. In 1983 his film Walking, Walking was screened out of competition at Cannes. In 1988, his La leggenda del santo bevitore (The Legend of the Holy Drinker), based on the novella by Joseph Roth and starring Rutger Hauer, won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival as well as a David di Donatello award.
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