“One of the last of the great filmmakers of the 60s . . . An absolutely individual artist.” – Martin Scorsese

Following highly successful retrospectives of Luchino Visconti (2018), Marcello Mastroianni (2017), and Anna Magnani (2016), Film at Lincoln Center and Istituto Luce Cinecittà collaborate once again, to co-present Ermanno Olmi, a near-complete retrospective of the Italian master’s feature films, with most screening on 35mm prints, June 14-26.

A key Italian filmmaker of his generation, Ermanno Olmi had a career that spanned more than six decades. Updating the stylistic hallmarks of Italian neorealism to craft fiction films full of light and dignity, Olmi time and again captured the experience of work and family and expressed the churn of history with humor and grace. Known for his commitment to working with nonprofessional actors and to capturing the specific textures of the locations in which he filmed, The director, who started out as a self-taught documentarian, drew inspiration from his Catholic faith and from the social and cultural preoccupations of his native Lombardy region—personified by peasants in rural farming communities or by white-collar workers in the provincial capital of Milan. But Olmi, who passed away last year at age 86, was also always concerned with the political and economic systems underlying the social and physical environments in which his characters lived and dreamed.

The first New York City retrospective of his work in over a decade, this series pays homage to Olmi’s singular and sophisticated voice in Italian cinema, whose influence can be seen today in the work of such major directors as Alice Rohrwacher and Pietro Marcello. A diverse range of Olmi’s impressive oeuvre will be showcased, with highlights including his first narrative feature, Time Stood Still; the moving bildungsroman Il Posto, a sharp critique of corporate enterprises; his Palme d’Or–winning masterpiece The Tree of Wooden Clogs; the deeply humanist The Legend of the Holy Drinker; his audacious One Hundred Nails; and Olmi’s final narrative film, Greenery Will Bloom Again. The retrospective will also include the World Premiere of a 4K digital restoration of the visually sumptuous The Profession of Arms, often considered his most religious film.

Tickets for Ermanno Olmi go on sale May 17, with Film at Lincoln Center members receiving an early access period beginning May 15. Tickets are $15; $12 for students, seniors (62+), and persons with disabilities; and $10 for Film at Lincoln Center members. See more and save with the 3+ film discount package or Ermanno Olmi All-Access Pass.

Organized by Florence Almozini and Dan Sullivan of Film at Lincoln Center, and by Camilla Cormanni and Paola Ruggiero of Istituto Luce Cinecittà. Co-produced by Istituto Luce Cinecittà, Rome. Presented in association with the Ministry of Culture of Italy.

All screenings held at the Walter Reade Theater (165 West 65th Street) unless otherwise noted.

The Cardboard Village / Il villaggio di cartone
Ermanno Olmi, Italy, 2011, 87m
Italian with English subtitles
At the age of 80, Olmi directed his penultimate fiction film, a striking parable about the defense of faith in a world posed to deny it. An old church is scheduled for demolition: the paintings have been taken off the walls, the sacred objects put away, and a giant, mechanical arm starts to take down the life-size crucifix that hangs over the altar. Yet despite seeing the destruction of a place in which he has devoted so much of his life, the old priest (Michael Lonsdale, in a beautiful performance) feels a certain joy, for stripped of all its decorations, the building has returned to its true nature as a meeting place for humanity and the Divine, where the poor and the desperate can find a haven. As so often in his work, Olmi starts with a philosophical or spiritual themes and then fashions a story that gives these themes a powerful, contemporary relevance.
Friday, June 21, 8:45pm
Wednesday, June 26, 2:00pm

The Circumstance / La circostanza
Ermanno Olmi, Italy, 1973, 35mm, 97m
Italian with English subtitles
The modernist tendencies that Olmi flirted with throughout the 1960s and ’70s reached their most intense and abstract heights in this fractured family portrait. Told in an elliptical maze of flashbacks and jagged edits, The Circumstance charts the unraveling of a well-heeled Milanese family over the course of a fateful summer when, after witnessing a near-fatal motorcycle accident, the mother becomes obsessed with the young victim. Applying his keenly observant eye for social details to an upper-middle-class milieu, Olmi crafts a trenchant and empathetic look at the search for meaning amid the empty alienation bourgeois existence. 35mm print from Istituto Luce Cinecittà.
Monday, June 17, 4:00pm
Wednesday, June 19, 8:30pm

The Fiancés / I Fidanzati
Ermanno Olmi, Italy, 1963, 35mm, 77m
Italian with English subtitles
Olmi achieved early acclaim with his third feature, which Kent Jones called “by far his most beautiful foray into modernist territory, simply because it feels so homegrown.” As if to bridge the gap from his prior film, Il Posto, Olmi opens with a dancehall sequence in which our doleful protagonist—factory worker Giovanni (Carlo Cabrini)—faces the weight of his choices. Giovanni has been offered a promotion, but it means relocating from Milan to far-off Sicily for 18 months and leaving behind his longtime fiancée Liliana (Anna Canzi). There he finds loneliness and isolation among the mainland transplants and anxiety over his future with Liliana. Melding Antonioni-esque alienation and essentially neorealist content (using nonprofessional actors), Olmi tenders a work both melancholy and lyrical. 35mm print from Istituto Luce Cinecittà.
Saturday, June 15, 4:30pm
Tuesday, June 18, 8:30pm
Sunday, June 23, 7:30pm

The Fiancés


Genesis: The Creation and the Flood / Genesi (La creazione e il diluvio)
Ermanno Olmi, Italy, 1994, 35mm, 91m
Italian with English subtitles
In one of his most ravishingly sensuous works, Olmi imagines the biblical book of Genesis as a golden-hued visual tone poem. Shot in Morocco with a cast of local Bedouins, Genesis: The Creation and the Flood begins as an old man answers his curious grandson’s questions by recounting to him the Christian story of creation, from the first day, to the tale of Adam and Eve, to the myth of the great flood. Worlds removed from the high-gloss spectacle of Hollywood’s biblical epics, Olmi’s vision is a meditative, lyrical expression of personal spirituality that finds transcendence in the beauty of the natural world. 35mm print from Istituto Luce Cinecittà.
Monday, June 17, 2:00pm
Tuesday, June 25, 8:30pm

Greenery Will Bloom Again / Torneranno i prati
Ermanno Olmi, Italy, 2014, 80m
Italian with English subtitles
At the age of 83, Olmi turned his attention to the First World War. But instead of making a combat film, he chose to capture a single snowy night on the Italian front, as soldiers burrowed in trenches confront their loneliness and find pockets of hope where they can. With measured pacing and sparse dialogue, hypnotizing in its patient alertness and reminiscent of Terrence Malick’s The Thin Red Line in its ethereality and focus on inner thoughts, this haunting meditation features actual World War I footage and is dedicated to the director’s father, who told Olmi tales of the war when he was a child. DCP from Istituto Luce Cinecittà.
Thursday, June 20, 4:00pm
Saturday, June 22, 2:00pm

Il Posto
Ermanno Olmi, Italy, 1961, 35mm, 93m
Italian with English subtitles
As with the earlier Italian neorealists, Olmi generally opted to work with nonprofessional actors and frequently shot on location, but such strategies are here used to depict life during the era of rapid economic expansion following the postwar recovery. The film follows wide-eyed Domenico as he journeys to Milan to interview for his first job. There, he becomes smitten with a young woman, Antonietta, applying for a position at the same company, a blush of romantic longing counterposed with the spiritual enervation of his office’s paper-pushing maze. “For me,” Olmi once remarked, “the cinema is a state of mind and a process of analysis from a series of detailed observations,” and this attitude is very much at work in Il Posto, a tender yet unflinching look at the passage into adulthood and capitalist bureaucracy, with all its concomitant disappointments. 35mm print from Istituto Luce Cinecittà.
Friday, June 14, 4:30pm
Wednesday, June 19, 6:30pm
Friday, June 21, 4:00pm

In the Summertime / Durante l’estate
Ermanno Olmi, Italy, 1971, 35mm, 105m
Italian with English subtitles
Olmi took a turn into Chaplin-esque whimsy with this rarely screened tragicomic fable about an eccentric mapmaker with a most unusual hobby: conferring phony aristocratic titles, complete with custom-made coats of arms, upon ordinary people in whom he detects a certain nobility. It’s a curious avocation that leads to both unexpected human connection and serious legal trouble when his lofty fantasies bump up against harsh reality. The closest Olmi came to pure comedy—delicate and bittersweet as it may be—In the Summertime achieves a touching poignancy thanks to the director’s abiding affection for the good-hearted outsiders of the world. 35mm print from Istituto Luce Cinecittà.
Saturday, June 15, 6:15pm
Tuesday, June 18, 2:00pm

The Legend of the Holy Drinker / La leggenda del santo bevitore
Ermanno Olmi, Italy/France, 1988, 35mm, 128m
English, French, and Italian with English subtitles
The spiritual humanism that runs through Olmi’s work reaches transcendent heights in this sublime adaptation of a novella by Austrian writer Joseph Roth. When a pious stranger bequeaths him 200 francs—with the caveat that he someday repay the debt in the form of an offering to Saint Therese—a homeless alcoholic (a transfixing Rutger Hauer) living under the bridges of Paris finds himself launched into a subtly surreal journey of the soul that takes him from the height of luxury to the depths of despair. Set to the music of Stravinsky and punctuated by hypnotic passages that unfold with the hushed intensity of a reverie, The Legend of the Holy Drinker confirmed Olmi’s status as cinema’s most sensitive chronicler of the downtrodden and dispossessed. 35mm print from Istituto Luce Cinecittà.
Sunday, June 16, 8:00pm
Saturday, June 22, 7:30pm

The Legend of the Holy Drinker


Long Live the Lady! / Lunga vita alla signora!
Ermanno Olmi, Italy, 1987, 35mm, 105m
English, French, and Italian with English subtitles
Six young men and women are whisked away to a mysterious, heavily surveilled castle in the mountains where they are being employed as the hired help for a swanky soiree, an elaborate dinner party for a coterie of intellectual and cultural elites presided over by an ancient, unsmiling noblewoman. But as the bizarre, oddly funereal night progresses, the young charges being to suspect there is something fishy going on—and it’s not just the enormous, grotesque flounder being served as the centerpiece. A subversive, Buñuelian send-up of one of Olmi’s recurring concerns—the conditioning of young people for the labor force—Long Live the Lady! is a rich and strange feast indeed. 35mm print from Istituto Luce Cinecittà.
Monday, June 17, 8:15pm
Wednesday, June 19, 2:00pm

A Man Named John / E venne un uomo
Ermanno Olmi, UK/Italy, 1965, 35mm, 90m
English and Italian with English subtitles
This unique biography of Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli—the son of humble Bergamo sharecroppers who would go on to become the much-loved and subsequently sainted Pope John XXIII—casts Rod Steiger as an “intermediary” between the man and the audience, narrating and sometimes reenacting the formative events of his life. Based on the diaries Roncalli kept during his teenage years, A Man Named John is less a conventional biopic than an awe-inspiring, deeply felt spiritual portrait that glows with the Catholic piety and belief in the extraordinary goodness of ordinary people so central to Olmi’s worldview. 35mm print from Istituto Luce Cinecittà.
Sunday, June 23, 2:00pm
Wednesday, June 26, 4:00pm

One Fine Day / Un certo giorno
Ermanno Olmi, Italy, 1968, 35mm, 105m
Italian with English subtitles
Olmi returned to the soulless corporate environs of Il Posto for this provocatively open-ended portrait of bourgeois moral breakdown. Unfolding in a series of fleeting flashbacks and impressions, the ironically titled One Fine Day takes place in the mind of a philandering, middle-aged advertising executive whose banal existence is upended by two sudden twists of fate—one that works seemingly to his advantage, the other a tragedy that leaves him questioning everything. Steadfastly refusing to pass judgement on his subject, Olmi creates a minutely sketched character study that exemplifies his mantra: “For me, the cinema is a state of mind and a process of analysis from a series of detailed observations.” 35mm print from Istituto Luce Cinecittà.
Saturday, June 15, 8:30pm
Tuesday, June 18, 4:15pm

One Hundred Nails / Centochiodi
Ermanno Olmi, Italy, 2007, 35mm, 92m
English and Italian with English subtitles
Conceived by Olmi as his final film (though he would ultimately go on to direct two more narrative features), this deceptively slight character study neatly summarizes the director’s spiritual and humanist philosophies. Opening with a shocking crime—a twisted individual has driven stakes through 100 precious books at a university library—the film goes on to follow the perpetrator: a disillusioned religion scholar (Raz Degan) who flees the arid world of academia to rediscover himself amid the simple pleasures of the countryside. Awash in images of impressionist beauty, One Hundred Nails is a paean to that which Olmi loved most: the glory of the natural world and the goodness of everyday people. 35mm print from Istituto Luce Cinecittà.
Thursday, June 20, 2:00pm
Wednesday, June 26, 9:00pm

World Premiere of New Digital Restoration
The Profession of Arms / Il mestiere delle armi
Ermanno Olmi, Italy, 2001, 105m
Italian with English subtitles
The Profession of Arms is Olmi’s quietly shattering requiem for Giovanni de’ Medici, the 16th-century military captain whose death signaled the end of an era in Italian history. Hired by the Pope to command an army of mercenary Italian soldiers against invading German forces, the fearless de’ Medici leads his band of condottieri in a series of increasingly intense battles—until a cannon wound to the leg leaves him on the brink of death. With a painterly visual style and a meticulous attention to period detail, Olmi crafts a hushed and hallucinatory meditation on corporeal suffering, spiritual release, and the inhumanity of industrial warfare. This restoration was completed in 2019 at the Istituto Luce-Cinecittà laboratories, by Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia – Cineteca Nazionale and Istituto Luce-Cinecittà, from the original 35mm picture and Dolby Master audio. Laboratory work was supervised by director of photography Fabio Olmi. Sound restoration supervision by Federico Savina.
Sunday, June 16, 5:30pm
Friday, June 21, 6:30pm

The Profession of Arms


The Scavengers / I recuperanti
Ermanno Olmi, Italy, 1970, 35mm, 101m
Italian with English subtitles
Shot amid the scenic splendor of the Alps, this postwar-set pastoral follows the fortunes of a young soldier who returns from the front lines to his home village faced with no prospects. Desperate to earn a living, he joins forces with a boisterous, free-spirited old man who teaches him the ropes of a most dangerous line of work: salvaging undetonated bombs leftover from the war for scrap metal. A tender, rollicking portrait of intergenerational friendship shot with a documentarian’s eye for naturalism, The Scavengers is an alternately lighthearted and serious variation on Olmi’s key theme: the tension between the demands of labor and personal liberty. 35mm print from Istituto Luce Cinecittà.
Saturday, June 15, 2:00pm
Monday, June 17, 6:00pm

The Secret of the Old Woods / Il segreto del bosco vecchio
Ermanno Olmi, Italy, 1993, 35mm, 134m
Italian with English subtitles
Following the death of his uncle, a bull-headed army colonel (beloved Italian character actor Paolo Villaggio) inherits a storybook mountain estate with the stipulation that he preserve, at all costs, the ancient woodlands adjoining it. When, despite the warnings of the townspeople, the stubborn military man proceeds with a plan to cut down the trees and sell the lumber, he awakens the spirits that dwell within the forest who fight to save their home. Gorgeously shot on location in the mist-shrouded, moonlight-drenched Dolomite mountains, this wondrous magical-realist fable is graced with a gentle animist spirit and an impassioned message of ecological stewardship. 35mm print from Istituto Luce Cinecittà.
Wednesday, June 26, 6:15pm

Singing Behind Screens / Cantando dietro i paraventi
Ermanno Olmi, Italy, 2003, 35mm, 98m
English, Italian, and Mandarin with English subtitles
Stories within stories and plays within plays feature prominently in Olmi’s late works, perhaps never more dazzlingly than in this rapturous blend of Chinese opera, high-seas adventure, and fairy tale. On a rain-soaked night, a timid young man mistakenly enters a Chinese brothel where he is mesmerized by a most amazing sight: an opulent stage production about the legend of a vengeful female pirate that shifts magically between layers of reality. A sensuous and surreal spectacle, Singing Behind Screens finds the director leaving his neorealist roots behind once and for all in favor of sumptuous, fully transportive fantasy.
Wednesday, June 19, 4:30pm
Tuesday, June 25, 6:00pm

Time Stood Still / Il tempo si è fermato
Ermanno Olmi, Italy, 1958, 35mm, 83m
Italian with English subtitles
Tasked by the Edison-Volta electric company with documenting the building of a hydroelectric dam, Olmi turned the project into his first narrative feature: a charmingly inventive human comedy bursting with the fresh exuberance of youth. In a snowbound shack in the Alps, a veteran dam worker—charged with overseeing the construction site while the rest of the crew is away for Christmas—has his solitude interrupted by the arrival of an unexpected roommate: a rock ’n’ roll–mad young man with whom he gradually forms an unexpected bond. Imbuing the simple story with sincere humanity, Olmi finds common ground in the gulf between generations. 35mm print from Istituto Luce Cinecittà.
Friday, June 14, 2:30pm
Tuesday, June 18, 6:30pm

The Tree of Wooden Clogs / L’albero degli zoccoli
Ermanno Olmi, Italy, 1978, 186m
Italian with English subtitles
Olmi’s Palme d’Or–winning masterpiece is an epic, ennobling portrait of four families living and working on a wealthy landowner’s estate in 19th-century Lombardy. From an accumulation of richly observed details, the director builds a work of monumental majesty that vividly portrays the peasants’ hardships, celebrations, beliefs, relationships to the land and animals, and, above all, the rhythms and rituals of their work, at once backbreaking but honest in its purity. Balancing an almost documentary-like commitment to realism with a poetic feeling for landscape, The Tree of Wooden Clogs overflows with love and concern for its common heroes.
Friday, June 14, 6:30pm
Sunday, June 16, 2:00pm
Saturday, June 22, 4:00pm

Walking, Walking / Cammina cammina
Ermanno Olmi, Italy, 1983, 35mm, 171m
Italian with English subtitles
Five years after the international success of The Tree of Wooden Clogs, Olmi returned with another neorealist historical epic, this one a sprawling retelling of the biblical story of the Magi. Opening in contemporary Italy as a village prepares for a celebratory reenactment of the wise men’s journey, the film magically transforms pageant into “reality,” following the three kings and a caravan of believers on their arduous pilgrimage to Bethlehem, their courage and faith tested every step of the way. Forgoing preachy piousness in favor of probing philosophical inquiry and earthy realism, Olmi crafts a provocative, uniquely elemental spiritual odyssey. 35mm print from Istituto Luce Cinecittà.
Sunday, June 23, 4:00pm
Tuesday, June 25, 2:30pm

Singing Behind Screens