Ingmar Bergman | A Gargantuan Retrospective
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  © 1995 Justin Berlin

Ingmar Bergman is the quintessential artist filmmaker. He is the model for so many who have tried to bring cultural weight and artistic significance to the movies, an industry steeped in glamour, spectacle and bottom-lines.
Bergman's unflinching explorations of the human experience are not pretense. They are the real stuff. And they fueled a ferment of interest in the late fifties and in those heady days of the sixties, when sex was riotously unleashed upon the screen and the European art film became a cultural force here in the U.S. This exhibition brings back the excitement of what movies can be when handled by a master.

The 60's and 70's Are Over Although the ferment surrounding the more than 50 films and television movies he wrote or directed in a half century has calmed, the 76 year old Bergman is still taken as seriously as ever. From Jean-Luc Godard to Woody Allen to any film student who ever had a deep thought Bergman's giant artistic achievement in film is firmly established. Even so, Bergman remains something of a mystery to many post-baby boomers. While his reputation stands solidly on the well known masterworks people have been able to see such as The Seventh Seal, Wild Strawberries, Persona, and Fanny and Alexander, the breadth of his film work has only been haphazardly shown in recent years. His mastery in the theater is largely unknown here except for the handful of world-class productions seen at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) in recent years. And therein lies the problem: a general lack of Bergman, which we've been suffering for something like 10 years. Even here in NYC where challenging films get shown probably more than anywhere else in the country there has been a scarcity. It's been 13 years since Bergman retired from feature filmmaking and the need to show his work may have diminished in programmers' eyes- many of whom were part of that initial and long sustained following and got to know his work so well over the years.

The Films The Film Society of Lincoln Center's Walter Reade Theater will present A Landscape of the Soul: The Films of Ingmar Bergman, a near-complete retrospective of his film work, featuring more than twenty-long-hoped-for- newly subtitled prints. In Bergman's oeuvre one finds beautiful, painful, challenging, and sometimes surprisingly humorous explorations of the human struggle for spiritual sustenance, individual identity, freedom and love amidst intricate and often confining social and familial bonds. Bergman's unique and often groundbreaking contribution to cinema lies in his unflinchingly honest, sometimes soul-dredging looks into the human psyche. He developed the use of flashbacks, dream sequences, and extended close-ups into a cinema that is truly of the inner life. He brought us spiritual and psychological conflicts in an intimate and complex fashion rarely glimpsed upon before-frank looks at sexual desire and its many, all too human, consequences as well as harrowing descents into the darkest moments of human suffering. Whether taking a comical or deadly serious tack Bergman leads us from embittered relationships, despair and the brink of madness to epiphanies of spiritual renewal and profound moments of human love and connection. Bergman asks the big questions and often without easy answers or clear routes of escape from the tangles of existence, yet his humorous side should not be discounted. He has created many truly hilarious moments, like the slapstick routine in Prison (AKA The Devil's Wanton) or the slice-of-life comedy in Summer with Monika. His humor is usually dark in tone, even in his brilliantly luminous comic masterpiece Smiles of a Summer Night. The Seventh Seal, a meditation on death and what ultimately is meaningful in life, has wonderfully bawdy moments too. And, like Shakespeare, Bergman's ability to mingle the comic and the tragic helps to create a profundity of meaning few artists in our time have reached.

A Genius of the Theater Bergman's huge accomplishments on film are only a part of his artistic achievement. His career began in the theater and throughout his filmmaking days he was at the same time a force in the theater, primarily as director but also as playwright. His genius continues today and will be showcased at BAM in two Royal Dramatic Theatre of Sweden (DRAMATEN) productions directed by Bergman. The first is the American premiere of Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale and the second is the return of Yukio Mishima's Madam de Sade to BAM. The productions will be presented in Swedish with remarkably effective English head set translation. Along with the chance to witness Bergman's stage brilliance first hand is an exhibition at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, entitled, Ingmar Bergman and the Theater, which will trace the development of Bergman's theatrical career, showing how his theatrical artistry stands both on its own terms and relates to his film work.

Television, Literature and More The full depth of the festival is in the strength of the other exhibitions. • The Museum of Television and Radio presents Ingmar Bergman in Close-Up: The Television Work, which includes television adaptations of stage productions, including the American premiere of his latest work, The Last Gasp, several original made-for-television dramatic works, miniseries and many rarely seen specials, documentaries and interviews. • Thirteen/WNET will be bolstering the above showings with two day-long broadcast marathons of Bergman's film and television works. Thirteen will also provide an on-air calendar of festival highlights. • The Museum of Modern Art will present a near complete retrospective of the films of Alf Sjöberg, one of the most significant directors in Swedish cinema and a major influence on Bergman's film and theater work. Sjöberg's works will be a welcome discovery for most, and his Fröken Julie (Miss Julie) which won the Palme d'Or at Cannes in 1951 is an outright masterpiece and considered the definitive film version of Strindberg's play. • The American Museum of the Moving Image's provides an exceptional program, Masters of Cinematography: Close-Up with Sven Nykvist. The legendary cinematographer will be present to screen and discuss scenes from his stunning collaborations with Bergman as well as works with other directors. • Arcade Publishing rounds out festival events with the publication of Ingmar Bergman: An Artist's Journey, an illustrated collection of writings by and on Bergman which notably includes attention to his literary work. Arcade will also be re-issuing in paper Bergman's most recent books, Images: My Life in Films, and his novel Sunday's Children.

Video Giveth and Taketh Away As it's unlikely anyone will be able to catch it all, video is an option-that dubious medium of film-to-tape transfers for those in need of a movie fix. Video, however, deserves credit both as a medium in its own right and for making many of Bergman's works readily available (I counted nearly 30 at Kim's Video, which now does mail order), although video transfers are of mixed and sometimes poor quality; often with illegible and poorly translated subtitles on older black and white releases. It's unfortunately true that much of the detail and nuance in a film made for the screen is lost when seen on video. Imagine a color xerox of a Van Gogh painting. Yes, you get the general idea, but it simply doesn't do justice to the original. On all but the best video or laser disk systems you won't realize what you've missed until you see the real thing on a big screen. One's intitial experience of a great film will undoubtedly be attenuated on video. This is especially true with filmmakers such as Bergman, who has brought us so many richly gaunt conjurings and subtly intimate performances. While ultimately inadequate, video is surely a boon for subseqent viewings. And for those of us in NYC, the Bergman Festival is the long awaited antidote.

Schedule of Events: The Film Society of Lincoln Center May 5 - June 15 A Landscape of the Soul: The Films of Ingmar Bergman. For further information call the box office at (212) 875-5600. The Museum of Television & Radio May 5 - July 2 Ingmar Bergman in Close-Up: The Television work. For further program information call (212) 621-6800 Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) May 31 - June 3 The Winter's Tale June 7 - 10 Madame de Sade Tickets are available by calling TicketMaster at (212) 307-4100. The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts June 1- September 1 Ingmar Bergman and the Theater. Admission is free. For more information call (212) 870-1630. American Museum of the Moving Image June 3 & 4 Masters of Cinematography: Close-Up with Sven Nykvist. For ticket reservations call (718) 784-4520. Museum of Modern Art June 9 - 27 Alf Sjöberg: Filmmaker. For more information call (212) 708-9480 Thirteen/WNET June 10 & 17 A Two-day marathon broadcast of works by Ingmar Bergman, Check your local listings for the broadcast schedule.

| Justin Berlin

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