Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Ingmar Bergman (1918 - 2007)

‘Our friend Berman is dead!’, my cinephile colleague announced from the other end and my reaction was, ‘Oh…he must've been 90, no?. '89’, my friend corrected me.

Natural death of any great artiste doesn’t arouse sadness in me because of two reasons. Firstly, because the person’s time had come and secondly, the artiste will always be alive through his works. So, without getting sad, I said to myself, ‘This calls for a post’. But then I remembered that I’ve already written something on the moviemaker, which you can find over here. So, what else do I put up as a tribute to the great man who turned (and will continue to turn) so many moments of my life into pleasurable ones and in such intelligent ways.

Then, I bumped into this excerpt from an interview, where Mr Bergman gives his opinion on other film directors. He replies with his usual brutal honesty and I had material for my post.

On Orson Welles:
Bergman: For me he's just a hoax. It's empty. It's not interesting. It's dead. Citizen Kane, which I have a copy of - is all the critics' darling, always at the top of every poll taken, but I think it's a total bore. Above all, the performances are worthless. The amount of respect that movie's got is absolutely unbelievable.

On Michelangelo Antonioni:
Bergman: He's done two masterpieces, you don't have to bother with the rest. One is Blow-Up, which I've seen many times, and the other is La Notte, also a wonderful film, although that's mostly because of the young Jeanne Moreau. In my collection I have a copy of Il Grido, and damn what a boring movie it is. So devilishly sad, I mean. You know, Antonioni never really learned the trade. He concentrated on single images, never realising that film is a rhythmic flow of images, a movement. Sure, there are brilliant moments in his films. But I don't feel anything for L'Avventura, for example. Only indifference. I never understood why Antonioni was so incredibly applauded. And I thought his muse Monica Vitti was a terrible actress.

On Federico Fellini:
Bergman: We were supposed to collaborate once, and along with Kurosawa make one love story each for a movie produced by Dino de Laurentiis. I flew down to Rome with my script and spent a lot of time with Fellini while we waited for Kurosawa, who finally couldn't leave Japan because of his health, so the project went belly-up. Fellini was about to finish Satyricon. I spent a lot of time in the studio and saw him work. I loved him both as a director and as a person, and I still watch his movies, like La Strada and that childhood rememberance - what's that called again?
The interviewer admits that he has also seen the movie several times, but just now the title slips his mind. Bergman laughs delightedly.
Bergman: Great that you're also a bit senile! That pleases me.
Later the same day, several hours after the interview, the phone rings:It's Bergman. 'AMARCORD!', he shouts.

On Francois Truffaut:
Bergman: I liked Truffaut a lot, I've felt a lot of admiration for his way to address the audience, and his storytelling. La nuit américaine is adorable, and another film I like to see is L'enfant sauvage, with its fine humanism.

On Jean-Luc Godard:
Bergman: I've never gotten anything out of his movies. They have felt constructed, faux intellectual and completely dead. Cinematographically uninteresting and infinitely boring. Godard is a fucking bore. He's made his films for the critics. One of the movies, Masculin, féminin, was shot here in Sweden. It was mindnumbingly boring.

On Andrei Tarkovsky:
Late one evening in 1971, Bergman and his friend and director Kjell Grede by pure coincidence stumbled upon a copy of Andrej Rubljov in a screening room at Svensk Filmindustri. They saw it without any subtitles. He ranks it to be one of his most startling and unforgettable movie experiences ever.

On modern American cinema:
Bergman: Among today's directors I'm of course impressed by Steven Spielberg and Scorsese, and Coppola, even if he seems to have ceased making films, and Steven Soderbergh - they all have something to say, they're passionate, they have an idealistic attitude to the filmmaking process. Soderbergh's Traffic is amazing. Another couple of fine examples of the strength of American cinema are American Beauty and Magnolia.

‘Seventh Seal’, one of his masterpieces depicts Man’s battle with Death over a game of chess…a battle which Death always wins. But not in the case of an artiste like Mr Bergman...his work lives on.


junk said...

I don't know if i can appreciate this as being 'honest'. I'd rather call it an inability.

junk said...

Yes, maybe some of his comments, such as the one about performances in citizen kane and the undue acclaim it has got are true, but that doesn't take make it absolute rubbish. You don't have to put something down so much just because you feel it is getting undue appreciation.

About andrei Rubiyev, I do have the movie with, but other than some real gems such as the terrific sequence of the horse struggling to get up, I was unable to connect to it, probably in the same way as The Grand Inquisitor in Brothers... It talks a bit too much about religion and the bible and I'm not very well-versed with that nor do i find it very interesting.

meraj said...

Because it was a post on Bergman, I kept away from putting across my opinion. Now that you have set the tone, perhpas I can do it here as comment.

Even I found myself agreeing with Bergman's view on Citizen Kane. If it hadnt been an American movie, it would have never got this much of fame. One just needs to watch Fritz Lang's 'M' (Germany, 1931) to realize the pathbreaking moviemaking techniques that Lang used 10 years before Welles came up with his Kane.

I quiet enjoyed Tarkovsky's 'Sacrifice' but had a difficult time with the much acclaimed 'Mirror'. Its not my type of movie...doesnt suit my sensibilities. You may call it 'inability'.

On the French guys, give me a Trouffat over a Godard, anyday. Though, I dont agree with Bergman on Godard.

I haven't seen many Fellini to give my opinion in fullness. 8 1/2 is phenomenal stuff and classic forever!

The three American directors mentioned are really good and promising and I always look forward to more from them.

meghna said...

i'm so glad to have someone else (and ofcourse the fact that it's bergman helps) say that they dislike citizen kane. heh. good post. thanks.

meraj said...

am glad you liked the post, Meghna.