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'Le Quattro Volte'

Virtually wordless film depicts life's cycles

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Le Quattro Volte

A scene from "Le Quattro Volte" (Lorber Films)

Given the attention generated by a mystical new movie starring Brad Pitt, the distributor of this Italian tone-poem might want to change the title to "The Tree Della Vita." The same warning I gave about Terrence Malick's masterpiece "The Tree of Life" applies to the quiet quasi-documentary "Le Quattro Volte": If you require a plot, look elsewhere.

The title means "the four times" (or more aptly "the four stages"). Each section of this virtually wordless film involves one stage in the cycle of the life. In the first, we meet a lonely goatherd, who lives high on a hill in an ancient Italian village. Every evening, he leads his flock from the rocky fields to a rustic pen in the village, then in his barren apartment he fixes himself a potion of water and ashes to calm the hacking cough that seems to be killing him.

In the second story, a newborn goat learns to stand on its own four feet, then frolics on the hillside beneath a majestic pine. In the third, the tree is hauled to a holiday festival in the village square. And in the fourth, the tree is sectioned and sent to the charcoal works, where workers pile logs in an earthen kiln to make fuel for the winter.

Old age, rebirth, maturity, harvest. Except for the ironies in a disrupted Easter pageant and a runaway truck that herds the bleating goats into a building, director Michaelangelo Frammartino offers us slow-cooked images as simple as bread and wine. The God's-eye view becomes mesmerizing when we stop insisting that the film flatter us and just enjoy a quiet ride on the cycle.

"Le Quattro Volte"

Three stars (out of four) Rating Not rated • Run time 1:28 • Content Some intense animal images • Where The Tivoli

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