Posted April 16, 2011 by William Dunmyer in Uncategorized

Quattro Volte: Banal Nature Documentary

“Le Quattro Volte” is a wordless nature documentary that is captivating for about 30 minutes. Director Michelangelo Frammartino (his second feature film) photographs an old man tending goats in a small Italian village where life has not changed much in 500 years. Frammartino is as much interested in the goats as the man, and the director does a remarkable job demonstrating the similarity between humans and other animals. The shepherd and his flock constitute Part 1 of the film.

Part 2 concerns the burning of wood to make charcoal. We watch as the local men build huge burning devices and fill them with freshly cut wood. The resulting charcoal is then brought to the houses of the village, where it is burned. Smoke then comes out the village chimneys, adding soot to the air. The soot then accumulates on village floors and windowsills. This refers back to Part 1, where we saw the elderly shepherd collecting soot from the floor of the local church.

All of this doesn’t add up to much. Frammartino is a great cinematographer, but his ideas don’t amount to much more than warmed-over Buddhism or modern eco-awareness about the interconnectedness of life forms. Ultimately, ‘Quattro Volte’ (which can be translated as “The Four Stages” or “The Four Turns”) doesn’t offer much more than you’d get from an episode of “Nature” on PBS.

Add Frammartino’s name to the ever-growing list of cinematographers masquerading as filmmakers. There is a worldwide epidemic causing cinematographers to believe they have what it takes to be directors, simply because they are good at cinematography. Someone explain to these men (and so far they are all men) that filmmaking is not just about cinematography! This problem seems particularly pronounced in Italy right now. Last year we had the brainless but beautifully photographed “I Am Love” from Luca Guadagnino. In 2011, we have the similarly vacuous but sumptuously photographed “Quattro Volte.” Michelangelo Antonioni must be turning over in his grave.

William Dunmyer

William Dunmyer is a lifelong cinephile who fell in love with movies at about the age of 5. He lives in New York City.