“LA COTTA” (Ermanno Olmi, 1967)

“I’d like to give you the first kiss again.”

Charming is the adjective most often applied to writer-director Ermanno Olmi’s 49-minute “The Crush”; however, I also find the film close to devastating. Perhaps it is the low, crestfallen voice that seemingly on-top-of-everything 15-year-old Andreà slips into when Jeanine, his girlfriend of ten days and presumed soul-mate, stands him up for their planned New Year’s Eve date. Andreà ends up spending the majority of his time with two individuals: a cab driver, who takes forever delivering him to the address of the party that Jeanine’s grandmother mistakenly believed that her granddaughter would be attending; the older sister of the girl throwing this Jeanineless party, who tries to get Andreà another cab and in the meantime ministers to his fragile ego—with kindness and honesty, not sex, although the dumped boy is suddenly smitten with her, too. We never learn this young woman’s name, but it hardly matters; we are assured that for Andreà there would be other crushes to come.
     This is a wonderfully exacting filmlet, originally made for Italian television, unified by a sharp theme: the reality of raw human feelings, but the unreality of much of the rest of reality due to the profound fog into which subjectivism—our interpretations, coping strategies, alternate in-the-moment imaginings and imperfect recollections later on—plunges it. Olmi’s opening description perfectly suits this elusive material: “A true story that could be a fairy tale.” Moreover, Olmi’s style creates a fluid blend of fiction and documentary, adolescent selfconsciousness (expressed briefly by amateur filmmaking-within-the-film) and naturalism.
     I wish I could give you the names of the marvelous (nonprofessional?) actors who play the bespectacled Andreà—he somewhat resembles Woody Allen—and the anonymous young woman; but I cannot locate a cast listing.*

* Marcella Di Palo Jost, bless her, found the information. The boy is played by Luciano Piergiovanni; the woman, by Giovanna Claudia Mongino.

One thought on ““LA COTTA” (Ermanno Olmi, 1967)

  1. Today, I first experimented with Ermanno Olmi’s cinema.

    Having an already heavy background on Italian cinema, Ermanno Olmi impressed me greatly, firstly with Il Posto(a beautiful innocence in an isolated environment, as per Olmi’s words) and then with this hauntingly seem like fantasy. I can’t put into words what I feel after seeing this movie.
    It’s the kind of feeling that mostly, only italian directors can have on me, maybe I can relate this to Alberto Sordi’s acting in il maestro di vigevano or Una vita difficile.

    Next stop, another 4 films by Ermanno Olmi. Grazie!

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