Criterion provide an 18 minute interview with Olmi, recorded in 2002, and the articulate and charming director provides insight into the genesis of his film - the industrialisation and economic boom in Italy in the 60's saw an upheaval in traditional customs and family life, especially in the poor agricultural areas, such as much of Sicily (where part of the film is set); in the story this backdrop is counterpoised against the personal changes wrought upon a couple, separated by these circumstances. They begin in stubborn silence and end in a heart-warming blossoming of articulate expression of their emotions and aspirations - the change sweeping through the nation has had its effect upon them.
Olmi speaks of his interest in presenting time in a novel way; he hopes to dissolve the distinctions between past, present and future, and segue from one to the next seamlessly, expecting the audience to intelligently follow his cues, and in so doing suggest the internal flow of time for his protagonist. I think he succeeds, and the film becomes, if anything, more realistic through this fluid depiction of time.
The cinematography is wonderful, whether in its intimacy, or in its handling of spectacular views of industrial plants. So too the pacing of scenes, the opening in particular being a joy of accumulated surprises, the tension building until the viewer is as eager for the musicians to play as the would-be dancers upon the screen.
Again in the interview, his collaborator speaks of Olmi's technical mastery of all aspects of film-making, his complete and utter disregard of commercial success, and his adherence to a policy of being honest with himself. He made documentaries of the working people, and early on committed himself to the production of quality informative material for television, even when the latter meant interfering with, the more lucrative, ventures into feature film.
So here is a work of art from a master film-maker - utterly engaging and formally accomplished, with insight into the social situation of his country at the time, told through the guise of a satisfying traditional love story. Criterion provide their customary perfect transfer and the mentioned bonus material. Every bit as good as, and very much a companion piece to Il Posto, I Fidanzati is something of a neglected masterpiece.