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 Posted:   Dec 1, 2011 - 9:41 AM   
 By:   Jim Phelps   (Member)

Watched Persona for the first time and was impressed with the film in total. Great cinematography (Sven Nykvist) and minimalist music score (Lars Johan Werle) in addition to the performances from Bibi Andersson and Liv Ullmann. It's miles ahead of most American and British films of that time--and since. No wonder my hero Woody Allen worships Bergman. Unfortunately the R1 MGM dvd is "zoomed" and there is significant picture loss. I hope Criterion gets to do this film properly.

Anyway, I'd seen The Seventh Seal many years ago and enjoyed that, too, but want to explore some of Bergman's other works, particularly his early '50s works which don't get discussed like his middle and later work do.

Feel free to suggest your favorite Bergman films and don't be shy about explaining what you like.

 
 
 Posted:   Dec 1, 2011 - 9:57 AM   
 By:   Thor   (Member)

My favourite is probably SMULTRONSTÄLLET (WILD STRAWBERRIES). I prefer his more experimental films and less so the more intimate, psychological character dramas.

 
 
 Posted:   Dec 1, 2011 - 10:05 AM   
 By:   JSWalsh   (Member)

SMILES OF A SUMMER NIGHT--First Bergman I saw, and surprising considering his rep. Just pure pleasure.

THROUGH A GLASS DARKLY--If pressed, might name this as my favorite. Love the expressive cinematography that shows an unbalanced mind, and seeing a character who I dislike who's nevertheless trying to make up for some of his past sins.

HOUR OF THE WOLF--Bergman's horror movie, very nightmarish. Great movie for after midnight.

CRIES AND WHISPERS--Great use of white and red in a grueling look at the last days of a dying woman and her sisters.

FANNY AND ALEXANDER--Much lighter than his usual movies, more like SMILES, very magical.

AUTUMN SONATA--Basically a two-character play, as mom and daughter unleash their anger. I really enjoyed this, but it's very unfair to the Ingrid Bergman character.

SCENES FROM A MARRIAGE--Probably the easiest of his works to take in.

The odd thing for me is I wasn't much impressed with the 'major' Bergman's--WILD STRAWBERRIES and VIRGIN SPRING were all ok, but I've never felt like watching them again, and I actually turned off SEVENTH SEAL.

 
 Posted:   Dec 1, 2011 - 11:19 AM   
 By:   Jim Phelps   (Member)

The one I'm interested in seeing is 1951's SUMMER INTERLUDE, but it's not on DVD as yet, at least in R1.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0044060/

WILD STRAWBERRIES shall be next.

I also vaguely recall a documentary shot on Bergman's gloomy grey island...maybe it was a bonus feature on one of the Criterions.

 
 
 Posted:   Dec 1, 2011 - 11:39 AM   
 By:   Doc Loch   (Member)

What a strange coincidence. I just showed this to my Intro to Film class Tuesday night. Students tend to be thrown by it but I draw comparisons to Psycho and Fight Club so they can relate to it better. Also works well for talking about the idea of "projection" as both a cinematic and psychoanalytic concept. By the way, I developed my "single woman" theory of Persona (which I wrote about in an article for the Hitchcock Annual) before Fight Club was made and when I saw the film my first thought was that someone had the same interpretation of Persona that I did.

I don't think there's any lose of picture on the MGM release. Bergman shot this at 1.33:1, with a lot of tight compositions. I've compared the MGM disc to both my 16mm print and the version TCM runs and I don't see any differences. I got a Japanese disc of Summer Interlude from a seller on ebay and I think it might have been an all-region disc. I'll try to check it if I can find where I put it.

 
 Posted:   Dec 1, 2011 - 10:15 PM   
 By:   ToneRow   (Member)

Watched Persona for the first time and was impressed with the film in total. Great cinematography (Sven Nykvist) and minimalist music score (Lars Johan Werle) in addition to the performances from Bibi Andersson and Liv Ullmann. It's miles ahead of most American and British films of that time--and since. No wonder my hero Woody Allen worships Bergman. Unfortunately the R1 MGM dvd is "zoomed" and there is significant picture loss. I hope Criterion gets to do this film properly.

Anyway, I'd seen The Seventh Seal many years ago and enjoyed that, too, but want to explore some of Bergman's other works, particularly his early '50s works which don't get discussed like his middle and later work do.

Feel free to suggest your favorite Bergman films and don't be shy about explaining what you like.


PERSONA has been such a cinematic milestone to me that I find it difficult to conceive of any serious connoisseur of international art films NOT having seen PERSONA.
I discovered Ingmar Bergman in 1989 at age 22, and had gotten every Bergman title available on VHS tape by 1990/'91. So PERSONA has been with me for at least 20 years.

Having said this, PERSONA is actually my 3rd favorite Bergman opus, with my favorite being VARGTIMMEN (HOUR OF THE WOLF) followed closely by TYSTNADEN (THE SILENCE).
RITEN (THE RITE) fluctuates with ANSIKTET (THE MAGICIAN) as my 4th favorite.
But I’m splitting hairs here because out of the hundreds of movies I have on home video, PERSONA is up there within my personal “Top 10” favorites along with the first two. This makes Ingmar Bergman the only director to have more than one of his films on my Top 10.

The poster above plus myself are the only 2 persons whom I'm aware of mentioning the music of Lars Johan Werle; I've even cited his PERSONA score within my "top 5" of 1966:

http://www.filmscoremonthly.com/board/posts.cfm?threadID=84303&forumID=1&archive=0

Bergman’s pre-1955 works need to be viewed within the context of the commercial requirements of the Swedish studio system, which limited cinematic content to basically romance and comedy.
While a number of these late-1940s/early 1950s movies by Bergman may have things of interest for Bergman fans, I’d recommend the following as the ones that stand out (for me anyway) from amongst the more routine efforts:

  • GYCKLARNAS AFTON (SAWDUST AND TINSEL) (1953). Bergman’s frequent theme about the humiliation of the artiste makes one of its earliest incarnations in this film about the rather pitiful lives of circus performers. While some critics have taken this film as Bergman’s homage to the silent film VARIETY, SAWDUST AND TINSEL creates an atmosphere that’s more Felliniesque than even Fellini himself was at this time. Plus there’s a superb and sardonic one-time music score by Karl-Birger Blomdahl. The expressionistic flashback sequence, which occurs quite early in the film, is reason enough to check this one out:



  • KVINNODROM (DREAMS) (1954) is perhaps the gloomiest of Bergman’s films about the lives and loves of career women. Lots of memorable well-photographed scenes.

  • SOMMAREN MED MONIKA (1952) should be a must-see if you’re a fan of Harriet Andersson (this is one in which she appears nude on the beach). It’s a good, but not great, film about an independent spirited young girl who defies traditions.

    Hope these whet the appetite for more early Bergman!

  •  
     
     Posted:   Dec 1, 2011 - 11:40 PM   
     By:   Doc Loch   (Member)

    Starting with about The Seventh Seal I found it was best to view Bergman's films in order since he keeps exploring and expanding on many of the same issues and the effect is cumulative (though it can be a bit draining). The Silence, for example, gains much more resonance when seen as part of a progression from the films that preceded it.

    I also should put in a recommendation for De Duva (The Dove) here, since it won the coveted Golden Escargot award.

     
     
     Posted:   Dec 2, 2011 - 2:09 AM   
     By:   Bob DiMucci   (Member)

    It seemed that the most requested Bergman film that had yet to appear on DVD was 1976's "Face To Face." Now that Olive Films has released that (albeit in a heavily criticized transfer), the Bergman film I'd most like to see on DVD is his first English-language film, from 1971:

     
     
     Posted:   Dec 2, 2011 - 2:23 AM   
     By:   Thor   (Member)

  • GYCKLARNAS AFTON (SAWDUST AND TINSEL) (1953). Bergman’s frequent theme about the humiliation of the artiste makes one of its earliest incarnations in this film about the rather pitiful lives of circus performers. While some critics have taken this film as Bergman’s homage to the silent film VARIETY, SAWDUST AND TINSEL creates an atmosphere that’s more Felliniesque than even Fellini himself was at this time. Plus there’s a superb and sardonic one-time music score by Karl-Birger Blomdahl. The expressionistic flashback sequence, which occurs quite early in the film, is reason enough to check this one out:

    The interesting thing about that scene is that the eerie black/white photography was created purely by "chance", i.e. an error with the camera. But it had such a surreal effect that he decided to keep it in.

  •  
     Posted:   Dec 2, 2011 - 4:46 AM   
     By:   Jim Phelps   (Member)

    Tonerow and "Dah-mooch": Thanks for your suggestions.

    Thor: IIRC you mentioned sometime ago that you weren't too keen on Bergman's films with Liv Ullmann (who apparently lives here in Miami BTW), could you elaborate--or send me to the celluloid tunes site with the explanation? wink

    Monnika--another not on DVD--is the film that a young Woody Allen saw because he heard there were scenes of a nude woman in it--I also think Allen mined the concept of Sawdust and Tinsel for his own homage, Shadows and Fog.

    As if you all didn't know, Woody's constant mentioning and nicking from Bergman is primarily what brought me to this current Bergman mood.

     
     Posted:   Dec 2, 2011 - 3:10 PM   
     By:   Jim Phelps   (Member)

    I found this informative Bergman site:

    http://bergmanorama.webs.com/index.html

     
     
     Posted:   Dec 2, 2011 - 3:19 PM   
     By:   Thor   (Member)

    Tonerow and "Dah-mooch": Thanks for your suggestions.

    Thor: IIRC you mentioned sometime ago that you weren't too keen on Bergman's films with Liv Ullmann (who apparently lives here in Miami BTW), could you elaborate--or send me to the celluloid tunes site with the explanation? wink.


    Yeah, I'm not too keen on his more theatrical, stilted character dramas in the vein of WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF? I prefer films that exploit the audiovisual potential of the medium more fully, and so I prefer Bergman's more experimental films. As it happens, Ullmann's tenure with Bergman was mostly with the former kind, so that's why I'm not too keen on them. Although I did kinda like HÖSTSONATEN.

     
     
     Posted:   Dec 5, 2011 - 12:45 AM   
     By:   Richard-W   (Member)




    I think PERSONA (1966) is one of the great works of art of the 20th century. Literally. Pure cinema. I saw it for the first time in 1974 on a double-feature with HOUR OF THE WOLF (1967) at the Mini-Cinema, a repertory theater on Long Island, NY. I have never forgotten the experience of watching the determined silence of Liv Ullman provoke Bibi Andersson into talking endlessly about herself. How their relationship evolves from the professional to the personal, from a kind of hero-worship into a symbiosis that is as intense and scary for us the viewers as it must have been the two actresses. What these two lovely ladies are capable of! The moment when their two faces merge into the same face, finally representing the meeting of minds one of them has always wanted and the other has been trying to shut out, is unforgettable. Then the film breaks, as if some kind of boundary has been crossed that should not be or as if a metaphysical crime has been committed. In the end they are two sides of the same coin, the same persona.

    Or something like that.

    PERSONA taught me what cinema is capable of in the hands of a genuine artist. It's a visionary work. The film rewards repeated viewings. Everytime I see it, I find another dimension in it that makes me shake my head in wonder.

    I'd seen one other Bergman film before that, CRIES AND WHISPERS (1972) at the Loft in Tucson, when I was too young to understand it. But I knew as it unfolded that it would become important to me later.

    PERSONA rules.


    Richard




     
     
     Posted:   Dec 5, 2011 - 1:03 AM   
     By:   Doc Loch   (Member)

    Actually, the film tears down the middle before the merging of the two faces. It occurs about fifty minutes into the film, just after Elisabet steps on the piece of broken glass that Alma has deliberately not swept up. If you buy into the idea that there's only one woman on the island manifesting two personalities (note that only one woman is seen actually leaving the island), it's possible that at the point when Elisabet cuts her foot and experiences pain she realizes the "other woman" is herself and it is too much for her to comprehend so the film rips. Once the film comes back into focus it becomes a contest between the two sides of her personality to see which one emerges as the dominant one, leading up to the moment when the faces merge.

     
     
     Posted:   Dec 5, 2011 - 1:19 AM   
     By:   Richard-W   (Member)

    Film doesn't get any better than PERSONA.
    I can't say it's downhill from there, but I will say that Bergman found other hills to climb no less challenging, and he climbed them. I recommend watching

    1957 The Seventh Seal
    1957 Wild Strawberries
    1958 The Magician
    1959 Brink of Life
    1960 The Virgin Spring

    the trilogy:
    1961 Through a Glass Darkly
    1962 Winter Light -- perfection
    1963 The Silence

    1964 All These Women (a comedy that anticipates Cries and Whispers)

    1967 Hour of the Wolf
    1968 Shame
    1968 The Passion of Anna
    1969 The Rite
    1972 Cries and Whispers
    1976 Face to Face
    1977 The Serpent's Egg
    1997 In the Presence of a Clown


    Richard

     
     
     Posted:   Dec 5, 2011 - 1:25 AM   
     By:   Richard-W   (Member)



    Doc Loch:
    Actually, the film tears down the middle before the merging of the two faces. It occurs about fifty minutes into the film, just after Elisabet steps on the piece of broken glass that Alma has deliberately not swept up. If you buy into the idea that there's only one woman on the island manifesting two personalities (note that only one woman is seen actually leaving the island), it's possible that at the point when Elisabet cuts her foot and experiences pain she realizes the "other woman" is herself and it is too much for her to comprehend so the film rips. Once the film comes back into focus it becomes a contest between the two sides of her personality to see which one emerges as the dominant one, leading up to the moment when the faces merge.


    I'm not sure I agree, but this is a valid interpretation, and I find it interesting.
    There is the presence of the Head Nurse to consider.

    I'll watch it again with your interpretation in mind, sometime over the next couple of days.

    By the way, the Tartan DVD is sharper than the MGM, but slightly off-pitch by 4%.
    I envy you owning a 16mm print.

    PERSONA rules.

    Richard




     
     Posted:   Dec 5, 2011 - 3:06 AM   
     By:   ToneRow   (Member)

    I recommend watching

    1957 The Seventh Seal
    1957 Wild Strawberries
    1958 The Magician
    1959 Brink of Life
    1960 The Virgin Spring

    the trilogy:
    1961 Through a Glass Darkly
    1962 Winter Light -- perfection
    1963 The Silence

    1964 All These Women (a comedy that anticipates Cries and Whispers)

    1967 Hour of the Wolf
    1968 Shame
    1968 The Passion of Anna
    1969 The Rite
    1972 Cries and Whispers
    1977 The Serpent's Egg
    1997 In the Presence of a Clown


    Richard


    Hi, Richard.

    What are your recommendations for pre-SMILES OF A SUMMER NIGHT films by Bergman?
    Jim Phelps was asking for early Bergman, not necessarily "prime" Bergman...

     
     Posted:   Dec 5, 2011 - 3:09 AM   
     By:   Jim Phelps   (Member)

    Jim Phelps was asking for early Bergman, not necessarily "prime" Bergman...

    No, no discuss it all! This board needs it!

    Richard-W: I enjoyed the "memories of" aspect of your post...and had a similar reaction to Persona--it's a mindblowing, thought provoking, and highly emotional film...not bad for the "dour" Swedes (and Norwegian). wink

     
     
     Posted:   Dec 5, 2011 - 2:27 PM   
     By:   Doc Loch   (Member)

    I wouldn't want to suggest that the single woman idea is the only way to read the film, and in fact Bergman was once asked about this interpretation and basically dismissed it, but I think he just didn't want to impose a specific reading on a film that is clearly meant to challenge the viewer to draw their own meaning from it. Still, the single woman idea does explain a lot of things, like why the psychiatrist is only seen talking to each woman separately, rather than both of them at one, why Elisabet's husband thinks Alma is his wife when he meets her on the island, why only one woman leaves the island, etc.). There's a lot of other evidence but too much to itemize here. If anyone is interested they might try to track down my article "Hitchcock, Bergman and the Divided Self" (not my choice of title by the way) in the Hitchcock Annual. It was written before Fight Club came out but published shortly after that film was released, and some of the connections are striking. Okay, enough shameless self-promotion, let's get back to the discussion.

     
     
     Posted:   Dec 5, 2011 - 4:32 PM   
     By:   Richard-W   (Member)

    Remember, Bergman started out brilliant in the 1940s, and then he kept getting better. Sawdust and Tinsel (1953) and Smiles of a Summer Night (1955) are the richest of his early films, but they're all seriously acute drama from the cinema's finest dramatist, so whichever early Bergman you watch will be rewarding. Summer With Monika (1953) is often cited as one of his best early films. Every male on this forum will relate to the boy's experience, especially in the second half, and I would rather not, so I've only seen that film once.

    Doc Loch, I have a couple of the Hitchcock Annuals but not the one with your article. Which year? You've talked me into watching the film late tonight, after the household has gone to bed and I can concentrate.

    Richard

     
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