Italy/Germany/Switzerland, 2010, 88 min
To every thing there is a season in Michelangelo Frammartino’s surprisingly humorous and moving meditation on the revolving cycles of life in a quiet medieval hilltop hamlet in Calabria, Italy. Amid the dulcet tones of church bells and chirping birds, we meet all manner of peacefully coexisting inhabitants—two-legged, four-pawed and molluscan—as they go about their quotidian routines and ages-old traditions both sacred and secular, pausing on occasion to witness a scrappy passion play, climb a giant fir tree or, in the case of a scene-stealing dog, set in motion slapstick spills that throw the fortress-walled burg into picturesque disarray. Meanwhile, an elderly goat herder treats his persistent cough with a hallowed dose of dust from the local church floor, a goat kid is born (its struggle to stand upright following the shock of birth will have viewers rooting for success of the most elemental sort) and coalmen build an Andy Goldsworthy–like structure of straw and clay in which time and temperature turn wood into charcoal. Small events accumulate and the titular quartet plays out in patiently observed takes under drifting clouds. Souls may transmogrify from human to animal to vegetable to mineral in this quiet village, or perhaps life and death are linked merely by happenstance. Frammartino’s disarmingly lovely second feature treats the nature of metaphysics—and vice versa—with a delicate, perhaps uniquely Italian, touch, and his subtle couching of fictive elements within authentic settings makes for a fresh blend of documentary observation and narrative storytelling.
Special support for this program generously provided by John and Karen Diefenbach. Presented in association with Italian Cultural Institute, San Francisco.