Sunday, June 05, 2011

Underrated Movie #119: Il Posto

Title: Il Posto (“The Job”)
Year: 1961
Director: Ermanno Olmi
Writers: Olmi and Ettore Lombardo
Stars: Sandro Panseri, Loredana Detto, Tullo Kezich, Mara Revel

The Story: A young man from the sticks heads into Milan to find his way in life, competing for and winning a bland office job, then courting a pretty co-worker.
How it Came to be Underrated: Olmi didn’t make a lot of films and so his name never joined the pantheon of well-known Italian neorealist directors like Rossellini, Visconti, Antonioni, and early Fellini. As a result, this little gem has been unjustly forgotten.
Why It’s Great:
  1. Olmi thought that neorealism had lost its way once it became a big international phenomenon. They were now plopping international movie stars into natural locations and putting a little grease on their faces, rather than sticking with untrained actors with real faces. He picked actors off the street instead, and made two amazing finds with Panseri and Detto. This was Panseri’s only movie and he became a lifelong supermarket clerk. Detto never acted again either, but she ended up a little better off: she married Olmi.
  2. This is one of the most heartfelt coming of age stories ever made. Olmi captures so many universal moments of awkwardness that everybody has felt, but never seen onscreen. The most touching scene is one where our hero finds that he’s the only one who showed up on time for the start of the big office party, and we watch him wait and squirm…
  3. American have stopped going to see European movies but I can’t blame it on small-mindedness. After all, Americans are now willing to watch whole episodes of “Lost” and “Heroes” with subtitles and not bat an eye. If the international market could once again consistently produce movies this buoyant, Americans would start showing up again. Instead, every year, the reviews of the hit movies at Cannes run the full emotional gamut from “brutally bleak” to “bleakly brutal.” Like the best episodes of the American version of “The Office”, this movie presents a potentially depressing story with a downbeat ending, but it is nevertheless charming and life-affirming.
  4. It’s nice that office jobs no longer demand that potential employees do squat tests or ask questions like “Are you comfortable eating away from home? Does the future seem hopeless to you? Do you suffer from frequent itching? Does the opposite sex repulse you? Do you often drink to forget your troubles?” But they were implicitly offering “a job for life”, and it would sure be nice to have that back.
If You Like This, You Should Also Check Out: The highest compliment this could receive is to say that it makes a fine companion (a pseudo-sequel of sorts) to Fellini’s breakthrough movie, I Vitelloni, which was about those kids who stayed behind in the small towns and tried to resist moving to the big city for jobs. Another wonderful semi-autobiographical story from the time about a hapless young man is Truffaut’s Stolen Kisses.
How Available Is It?: It has a beautiful Criterion DVD, with lots of features, including a fun reminiscence by Olmi recorded in 2002.
Today’s Post Was Brought To You By: The Old Die Rich!


Anonymous said...

i vitelloni, not vitteloni ;)
great blog.

Matt Bird said...

Thanks, I'll change it!

Phillip Wand said...

sad that these two never did anything else :(

Anonymous said...

If American audiences can’t accept depressing movies, then we have the wrong audiences