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Michelangelo Frammartino’s Le quattro volte

Michelangelo Frammartino, Le quattro volte (Four Times), 2010, still from a color film in 35 mm, 88 minutes.

THE FIRST CALABRIAN animist-Neorealist process film inspired by Pythagoras’s conception of metempsychosis, shot in long takes with no dialogue or music track, Michelangelo Frammartino’s Le quattro volte (Four Times) sounds daunting but is far from. A mystical chronicle based on the Greek philosopher’s four stages of spiritual reincarnation—human, animal, vegetable, mineral—the film maintains an aura of rigor and mystery but ends up more ingratiating than austere. The residue of decay forms its central motif: primordial loam venting smoke in the film’s precredit images; dirt swept from a church floor and packaged as a curative powder; swirling dust motes backlit to resemble a softly glimmering cosmos; embers crumbling in a metal tray; the remains of a tree reduced to obsidian stumps of charcoal. In Frammartino’s rapt traversal of a soul’s transmigration from a tubercular

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