Wednesday, August 01, 2007

The Loss of Bergman and Antonioni

Two giants of mid-century European cinema died this past week. Ingmar Bergman and Michelangelo Antonioni were responsible, in their own highly individualistic ways, for creating films that dealt with issues concerning man's place in the world, his existential angst, and alienation in the modern world. They also brought foreign film to the notice of American viewers for the first time.

I admit to being somewhat of a Bergman junkie. I've seen most, though definitely not all, of his films and the list of ones I admire deeply is long. He gets a bad rap for being heavy going and for dealing in big, serious themes like religion, death, and morality, but his films display a charm and wit unique to him, and though being rather serious, and possibly erring on the side of self-conscious intellectualism, the themes he explored are universal and seemingly timeless. Though I prefer the films Bergman made in the 1950s, ones like Cries and Whispers are as excellent as anything he made before. To list the films I admire most would tax any reader's patience and most of them are so famous as to be too obvious to mention. However, I have to suggest watching Summer Interlude since I believe it was one of his favorites and I know it is mine and practically no one ever mentions it.

While I feel a little two knowledgeable about Bergman (you know, like those people who can drone on endlessly about a subject they spend too much time and effort on - freakishly knowledgeable Star Trek or Harry Potter fans, for example) I've only seen two of Michelangelo Antonioni's films: L'avventura and Blow Up. I know practically nothing about his work or him, except that watching both of these films awed me and made me feel utterly stupid! Such complexity, such depth, and so perfectly rendered: I'll probably never completely understand what they're about, but I can enjoy trying to.

There's a lot in the press this week about Bergman and Antonioni, here are a few samples of what's out there:

Bergman, Antonioni and the Religiously Inclined - New York Times

Ingmar Bergman Obituary in the London Telegraph
Ingmar Bergman Obituary in The Guardian
Ingmar Bergman Obituary in The New York Times

Michelangelo Antonioni Obituary in the New York Times

Senses of Cinema on Michelangelo Antonioni