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@ K. 2005 10 27
I recently blogged something on the dozen or more times I’d seen Bergman’s Illicit Interlude as a teen. Eventually that post should get placed somewhere here at K. Just now I was sitting down to watch his Autumn Sonata, but itched to record a few Bergman memories first, simultaneously creating a Bergman scrapbook where I can jot things as they occur to me.
Ignore the alternate translations of title.
Somehow Illicit Interlude always turned up as the second feature in a Long Island art movie house in the 1950s. You know what art means: you get to see at least a flash of some blond’s ass, or boob. Seriously, the theater might show La Strada; but more often than not it also showed Illicit Interlude. So I had many a view of the blond running naked into the sea. Actually, I thought the movie was pretty good apart from the momentary tush. Nevertheless the name Bergman, as in Ingmar, meant nothing to me till my later teens.
Sophomore year or so in college, near midnight, I was sitting in my dorm single, listening to jazz, trying to read some assignment, looking out the window, when there was a knock on the door. In came dorm-buddy and eventual roommate Bob deJong. He was intoxicated, but this time, not from booze. He’d just seen a movie. And now neither of us could rest, or do anything else, till he’d told me about it. The Seventh Seal.
Assuming you know the movie you already know why a literate college-age guy with a stronger-than-average Christian background would feel compelled to blab. I will never forget the Dies Irae scene from that movie, medievals flagellating themselves during the plague. I’ve seen it many many times, but I would remember it forever if I’d never seen it: just from Bob’s mesmerized evocation.
Dies Irae scene
Not long after than night, certainly by my junior year, I was seeing Smiles of a Summer Night, Secrets of Women, Sawdust and Tinsel, Monika … and then, ay!, Wild Strawberries! And somewhere in there, The Seventh Seal, at least a couple of times. By then, believe me, I knew Bergman by name.
Even in the 1950s I was heartily sick of hearing people declare that The Seventh Seal was the greatest movie ever made. Anyone with discernment knew that that distinction belonged to Fellini’s La Strada. But on seeing Wild Strawberries I instantly put it in the top three.
Understand: I hadn’t yet seen The Seven Samurai. I had forgotten already how great Roshomon is. And even so, these opinions reeked of the ’50s sensibility. But hell, that’s when we were living: learning. We were young. That was OUR sensibility. A few more years of movie going and Intolerance, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari … would give me some perspective: and then, discovering Chaplin all over again. Modern Times.
For those years though Fellini remained my favorite, Bergman my second favorite. It wouldn’t be until the 1960s that other film makers: DW Griffith, Jean Renoir, Mizoguchi … would give them a hard nudge in my mind, and vault Kurosawa right over all of them.
It wasn’t till recently that my pantheon got again complicated with additions of Kieslowski, Tarkovsky …
Anyhow I believe it was somewhere in the 1960s that I heard that Bergman loved movies, all movies: knew Fellini’s work, etc. Ah, but Fellini! knew only himself. He told a story of intending to see a Bergman movie, in New York, had it all picked out, a time set aside. Then he learned that some dinky repertoire theater was showing his I Vitelloni and The White Sheik. Right: Fellini went to see Fellini again instead.
PS I’m “certain” that I Vitelloni was one of the films Fellini again saw on that occasion: for the second feature, theaters usually showed movies paired in those days, pick another early one, but minor: not La Strada, not The Nights of Cabiria.
PPS I’ve since blogged a bit about Bergman: will have to merge the materials at some point.
The top pic is self-explanatory, a male and a female swimming together. Sure enough, he’ll see the girl naked before long and so will we: bare tush in the surf in the twilight. Think whatever you want.
Ah, but the other pic, from the Seventh Seal! There you damn well ought to know more than a few things about who we are and what we’ve been. It’s plague time, people are punishing themselves in public for sins real or imagined, sins they’re guilty of or are expiating, would-be Christ-like, for others. Oh, please God, let my suffering pay his debt. (And let his suffering pay my debt!) (Clearly God is imagined as a big idiot, easily fooled.) The sound track chants the Dies Irae: Day of Wrath! Judgment is coming, Judgment is here! Priests swing those smoking stink pots. Yeah, this is medieval Christian Europe: civilization!
For the top image all you need is to be male or female; for the bottom image, Ah, you have to know a great deal.
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