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The Tree Of Wooden Clogs  [DVD]
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On a turn-of-the-century farm in Italy, various families work for the farm owner and are paid according to their productivity. One particular family has a gifted young boy, who they decide to send to school rather than force into manual labour. However, the child has to walk many miles to get to the nearest school, and when his shoes break one day on his journey home, the family are too poor to buy a new pair.
A three-hour peasant epic in which nothing very much happens might sound like the ultimate turn-off; but The Tree of Wooden Clogs ("L'Albero degli Zoccoli") is made with so much love and dedication that it rarely flags. Set in the Lombardy countryside in the closing years of the 19th century, the film traces the interconnected lives of four peasant families all living in the same large farmhouse. The most dramatic event, which gives the movie its title, is when a father chops down a tree so that his son can have clogs in which to walk to school, which leads to quiet tragedy in the final reel.
The film's director Ermanno Olmi--himself of North Italian peasant stock--based his subject on incidents from his own childhood and tales told him by his grandfather. His cast were non-professionals, real peasants chosen from villages of the Bergamo region, whom he encouraged to improvise their own dialogue. All the shooting was done on location with a 16 mm camera, using natural lighting and direct sound--a revolutionary approach in Italy at the time, when almost all films were studio-bound and heavily dubbed. The results carry a rare conviction, the unselfconsciously simple speech and muted earth-tones of the visuals make the film feel more like documentary than fiction.
The hardships of peasant life are never softened, though now and then Olmi's affection for his characters verges on sentimentality. And the unquestioning, submissive Catholicism of director and characters alike tends to cloy. But the sense of dignity and harmony, and the film's unhurried pace, always in step with the seasons, create a moving celebration of a vanished way of life. The Tree of Wooden Clogs took the Palme d'Or at the 1978 Cannes Film Festival.
On the DVD: The Tree of Wooden Clogs doesn't exactly come packed with extras: cast and technical credits, a stills gallery, and a brief two-minute introduction by Olmi, where he explains why he preferred to record in mono, which still sounds fine on the disc. The images have lost nothing of their muted subtlety, and the transfer is in the full 1.33:1 ratio of the original. --Philip Kemp --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
However social commentary is not the point in this film if however you wish to watch a film that confirms the mundane majesty of life with some of the finest actors I have had the pleasure to see than I recommend this film to you with no reservation. There is not much to say beyond that.
As other reviewers have pointed out, 'Clogs' is not a film chock full of action. It takes a year in the lives of a community of peasant farmers in the Bergamo area of Northern Italy. Modernity is knocking at the door: the child is sent to school; the landlord plays a recording of an aria, and the people overhear the miracle; an old uncle taaches a child how to beat the opposition in bringing tomatoes to market early; an impoverished widow manages to keep her large family because the eldest son - little more than a child himself - takes over and finds a job...a succession of small but hugely meaningful acts all add up to a portrait of a traditional society on the cusp of change.
Beautifully filmed, the film wins my award because it is warm and universal. Like 'Apu', you could show it in Africa, Arabia or China and it would at once be understood and communicate to the watchers. I know because it's been part of my armoury as a 'teaching aid' to get conversations going in classrooms overseas.
This film should have been placed on the rocket that set out to explore the universe and tell any people in other worlds about the best of us. Glorious.
This film reminds me of two excellent novels about hardship and struggle 'Knut Hamsun-Growth of the Soil' and 'Halldor Laxness- Independent People'.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I loved it. I love old time movies. Enjoyed it - it is a classic!Published 2 months ago by Good/BadBuys
Really couldn't get into this film at all :( hate to leave a bad review. We watched it for about 45 mins and had to turn it off :(Published 5 months ago by Rachael Andrew
For many this is Movie about our past .world run by Bill gates Howards, Blairs, Camerons, Berlusconies , Hollandes, Merkels, Bushes majors, there re Wall streets full of them.Published 5 months ago by Zdenek Hanzlik
This is a lovely film about some very hard lives and times. The cast of non actors make for a high level of realism as do the setting and editing style. Read morePublished 6 months ago by Nora Walters
low quality transfer but not really spoilt as its a classic. Prompt deliveryPublished 6 months ago by Tek-wizards
A beautifully crafted film with quite amazing performances by amateurs. Revealing and extremely moving with some delightfully entertaining moments too.Published 11 months ago by Ruth Harris