The Fiances | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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The Fiances

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Italian director Ermanno Olmi followed up his first big success, Il posto, with this striking 1962 portrait of a Milanese engineer (Carlo Cabrini) whose relationship with his fiancee (Anna Canzi) suffers when he goes to Sicily to help open a steel factory. As usual, Olmi supplies only the hint of a plot, defining the hero not through his conflicts with others but through the friction between his emotional needs and the incessant rhythm of his work life. Shot in crisp black and white, the film documents the various familial and cultural dislocations caused by industrial work: in a residential hotel, men sit in a darkened room staring vacantly at a TV; at the factory office, a woman shows up for work with her children in tow; and on the construction site, workers are dwarfed by the harsh geometry of cables and girders. Yet Olmi punctuates his social observation with bursts of montage that draw us deep inside the engineer's consciousness, an effect that builds to a dazzling romantic crescendo as he sits in his cheap boardinghouse reading a letter from his love. In Italian with subtitles. 76 min. Facets Cinematheque, 1517 W. Fullerton, Saturday, September 21, 3:00 and 6:30, 773-281-4114.

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