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Italian director Ermanno Olmi poses with his Golden Lion for lifetime achievement at the 65th Venice International Film Festival in 2008.Andrew Medichini/AP

Ermanno Olmi, an Italian cinematic giant who won the top award at the Cannes Film Festival for his depiction of 19th-century Italian farm life in The Tree of Wooden Clogs, has died at the age of 86.

Mr. Olmi died on Monday in the northern Italian city of Asiago, where a day of mourning has been planned for his funeral, Mayor Roberto Rigoni Stern told the ANSA news agency.

Condolences poured in from across Italy’s political and cultural spectrum for the director, with President Sergio Mattarella praising Mr. Olmi’s exploration of simple folk and Italy’s transition from a poor agrarian country to a post-war industrial power.

“Olmi gave voice to a peasant civilization by going back to its origins, honouring the feelings of simple people and places where nature meets man,” Mr. Mattarella said.

Culture Minister Dario Franceschini praised Mr. Olmi’s career as one of “poetry,” that explored the relation between man and nature, work and spirituality.

Mr. Olmi’s L’Albero degli Zoccoli (“The Tree of Wooden Clogs”), about life on a Lombardy farm at the end of the 19th century, won the 1978 Palme d’Or prize at the Cannes Film Festival. In 2008, he was honoured with a Career Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival.

Born in 1931 in the throes of fascism, Mr. Olmi watched firsthand with dismay as Italy’s countryside emptied out and Italians flocked to expanding cities. He chronicled his own life in his 2013 autobiography The Apocalypse and a Happy Ending.

Mr. Olmi didn’t only work behind the camera – he also directed several operas for the La Scala opera house in Milan, which mourned him on Monday.

“The figure of a complete artist and intellectual disappears with Olmi’s passing,” La Scala said.

Mr. Olmi leaves his wife, Loredana, and children.

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