Thursday, October 28, 2010


Glenn Kenny has an excellent discussion of Ingmar Bergman's The Magician and the snide comments upon Bergman's death that he was now passé.

This past July marked the third anniversary of Bergman's death, and the continuing—as opposed to waning—fact of his stature as a cinematic master makes Jonathan Rosenbaum's new-conventional-wisdom op-ed in the Times in the wake of the filmmaker's death seem even more churlish than had likely been intended. With a "case closed" confidence, Rosenbaum stated,"The hard fact is, Mr. Bergman isn’t being taught in film courses or debated by film buffs with the same intensity as Alfred Hitchcock, Orson Welles and Jean-Luc Godard. His works are seen less often in retrospectives and on DVD than those of Carl Dreyer and Robert Bresson — two master filmmakers widely scorned as boring and pretentious during Mr. Bergman’s heyday." I've never quite gotten over that last bit, which seems to blame Bergman for the scorn straw man Rosenbaum erects. But the more germane self-satisfied faux-"tant pis" occurs earlier in the piece, with Rosenbaum's oh-gee-isn't-that-tough-luck shrug, "Like many of [Bergman's] films, 'The Magician' hasn’t been widely available here for ages." But—ooops!—here's The Magician on DVD, on Criterion no less, in a gorgeous restoration that gives amazing solidity and depth to Gunnar Fischer's black-and-white images—I was practically hypnotized by the steely frames of the eyeglasses worn by  Naima Wifstrand's  crone and Gunnar Björnstrand's inquisitor. And there's a major Bergman retrospective at, which moved Mike D'Angelo in the L.A. Weekly to insist that coming to grips with Bergman is a necessary "rite of passage" for the "budding cinephile." That doesn't sound like much fun, mind you, but it does sound important. "Like almost any other significant, prolific artist," D'Angelo, slightly adopting Rosenbaum's shrug, proclaimed, early in September, "Bergman produced both towering masterpieces and self-indulgent drivel." There's a different kind of confidence at work in that assessment; as much as I might dislike or object to a particular work of Bergman's or a particular aspect of a Bergman work, I've never been sure that I could apprehend it well enough to dismiss it, literally, as drivel; for me in this respect it's a case of not having enough context. Is the monologue on Mozart from Hour of the Wolf, which Bille August later transposed to A Song For Martin, inspired musicological analysis or just something that sounds nice? I can't rightly say. But someday I may learn. Until that point, I believe that we'll continue to keep arguing about, and learning from, the great Ingmar. And, yes, actually enjoying a good deal of his work. As you should definitely do with this really great disc of The Magician