Pop Culture Gadabout
Monday, July 30, 2007
      ( 7/30/2007 07:39:00 AM ) Bill S.  

HOLDING UP A BOWL OF BERRIES AND CREAM – To many moviegoers, Ingmar Bergman is either known by the parodies of his work that've been done over the years or as the guy who "ruined" Woody Allen's career as a funny moviemaker. Me, I fell in love with Bergman's work when I was in college – through the film that most consider his most iconic, The Seventh Seal. The story of a disillusioned knight returning from the Crusades, who learns that Death has come for him and who tries to stave off his demise by delaying the grim reaper with a game of chess, it was perhaps the perfect film for a young college student who was himself going through his own questions of faith. I watched that film as often as I could in those pre-video recorder days; the year I became an officer in the university film society, I prevailed on Eric Bickley, ISU's one film instructor, to let me attend all the movie showings of his "History of Cinema" class, an upper level course I’d already taken once as a freshman. Saw The Seventh Seal twice that year, once for each semester.

I grew to love other movies in Bergman's catalog, of course: the ruefully erotic Smiles of A Summer Night; the folk tale reconstruction The Virgin Spring (which, infamously, served as an inspiration for Wes Craven's Last House on The Left); Cries and Whispers; the Dickensian Fanny and Alexander; that most unflinching examination of a decaying relationship Scenes from A Marriage, which is equally uncompromising whether you see it as a feature film or its original long teleseries format – and his classic old-before-his-time examination of a life, Wild Strawberries. To lot of movie buffs, Bergman has been typed as a dour old, over-intellectual Swede. To be sure, some of his films – the intensely mopey trio of films that comprise his Trilogy of Faith, for instance (Winter Light, Through A Glass Darkly and the profoundly creepy The Silence) – fit that label, but the man was also capable of filming a beautiful adaptation of The Magic Flute. To this admirer's eyes, Bergman's movies span the possibility of human emotions from deepest existential despair to honest joy at life's small beauties. I can only hope that wherever he's gone now, this greatest of moviemakers finds more than silence . . .

UPDATE (8/1): Now Antonioni passes! Never got into his films as strongly, though I could watch the Yardbirds smash things up in Blow Up repeatedly – and I have to admit to really getting off on the explosive finale to Zabriskie Point back when I was young and smokin' stuff. Still, having these two pass on so close to each other, it feels like some angry cosmic assault on the syllabus from my first History of Film class . . .
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Pop cultural criticism - plus the occasional egocentric socio/political commentary by Bill Sherman (popculturegadabout AT yahoo.com).

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