Monday, July 30, 2007

R.I.P.: Ingmar Bergman (1918-2007)

It's difficult to know where to begin when taking the final measure of an artist as inspired and awe-inspiring, as justly revered and pervasively influential, as Ingmar Bergman. Right now, I find my mind is swimming with too many memories of powerful scenes and indelible images for me to properly focus. I start to type something about, say, the extraordinary eroticism of Bibi Andersson's mesmerizing monologue in Persona, and I think, no, what I really want to describe is the melancholy grace of Victor Sjostrom's aged professor in Wild Strawberries... or the inconsolable despair of Gunnar Bjornstrand's rural pastor in Winter Light... the evanescent sensuality of Smiles of a Summer Night, or the terrifyingly chaotic civil war of Shame... or Max Von Sydow... Liv Ullmann... and, yes, of course, Death playing chess...

As usual, GreenCine Daily is the place to go for the most complete guide to eulogies and appraisals. The Guardian offers a very clever quiz about the man and his movies -- I can't help laughing out loud at Bergman's brusque dismissal of another noted auteur -- and here is a link to an interview with B-movie mogul Roger Corman, who delights in describing how he turned a tidy profit when his New World Pictures released Bergman's Cries and Whispers.

Regarding the latter: Corman recalled in his 1990 autobiography: "We were the first to get Bergman into drive-ins, the first to book him into multiple cinemas in the same city... The film took in $1.5 million in rentals, or a profit of close to $1 million... When I finally met Bergman years later, he mentioned that he thought it was great that we put his film in the drive-ins. 'Nobody ever thought of that before,' he said. 'I've always wanted my pictures to get the widest possible audience. That's an audience that never saw my pictures before New World.'"