Friday, November 21, 2008

Olde Review: The Sound of Trumpets

This Friday's ASUW films in 130 Kane at 7:30 pm are Ermanno Olmi's "The Sound of Trumpets" and John Schlesinger's "Midnight Cowboy." In a broad sense, both films deal with the death of one's dreams. But the approaches of the films and film-makers to that theme are very different, and so, too, are my reactions to them.

"The Sound of Trumpets" aka "Il Posto" (Ermanno Olmi, 1961) After a rather depressing day, I was in no mood to see a movie called "The Sound of Trumpets"—sounded like another war film to me.

But it is not a war movie: it's original title was "The Job," which wouldn't have been too thrilling a prospect, either. "The Sound of Trumpets" is a modest little Italian movie about a naive and old-fashioned young man names Domenico, who is gently shoved by his family into looking for a "life-long" job with an important firm.
And this film should be a nostalgic jog for anyone who has ever taken a test, gone job-hunting, had a crush, had a family, worked in an office, or gone to an office New Year's party. In other words, everyone should recognize and enjoy this film.

For me, it was like looking into a mirror, one that looks both inside and outside.
For we not only see Domenico's reactions to, say, a test he's taking, but also what he sees—the same things we look at, basically—the ceiling, the other test-takers, the lousy crud who finishes first, anything but the test. And it's all done with wit, subtlety, compassion and economy; at one point during the film a thoroughly irrelevant look at the lives of the other clerks whose jobs Domenico covets, is included for the bloody hell of it. But the segments do so much in so little time that one is thankful that its included, even if you are a trifle anxious to continue with the main story. I think you will be. I think you'll care about the people in this film because the director so obviously did. And a lot of important things are said in this film—about competition, about dreams, about wasted potentials, and about the "security" of a life-long job. I know this is a film you've never heard of, but it's definitely one you should see, because,'s us.

Broadcast on KCMU-FM December 3rd and 4th, 1976

Or not. That's a little presumptuous to say.

I remember "Il Posto" being one of the best films I saw in that quarter, and I need to see it again for many reasons. The most important one is how it has held up over time. But the second most important is how it holds up compared to the mockumentary approach to similar situations, ala "The Office." My memory of "Il Posto" is of it being absurdly dry for a deliberate comedic effect, and far more formal than the hand-held "busy-ness" of any of the "Office" incarnations (it's gone international, if you hadn't heard). And with far more warmth and humanity than seen displayed in the American or British versions. Plus,
Olmi's vision places an emphasis on architecture and its relation to the figures in each landscape. I still recommend this movie, even if its less known than Olmi's most popular film 1978's "The Tree of the Wooden Clogs."

And it just goes to show what joys you can experience in the cinema, if you just give a film with a lackluster title a chance, depressing day or no.

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