Tag Archives: Ingmar Bergman

Creepy Times

We’re living in creepy times.

There’s the in-yer-face daily creepiness covered by breathless reporters on CNN/FOX/MSNBC/OAN/EEYI-EEYI-OH and promulgated with ghoulish delight by Mr. Trump and his how-many-fingers-am-I-holding-up swarm.

  • Life-stealing creepiness like 120,000 US citizens dead from a worldwide plague while we fret over bits of cloth — flags and masks.
  • We fret about whether professional baseball should play 60 games this year or 75, while black parents and spouses worry about whether their loved ones can even make it home alive this evening. I think that qualifies as pretty creepy.
  • We are titillated by the daily televised travails masters of hard-eyed greed like Manafort, Stone, Cohen, and Flynn, while nuclear-equipped hard-eyes like Putin, Kim Jong-Un, Erdogan, and Xi chat with our president regularly and off-the-record about who knows what. How creepy of us and them.

But enough of all that mundane, casual life-sucking, je ne sais yuck.

Let’s talk real creepy.

Like…

…how Facebook and Amazon and Google seem to know what we’re thinking, almost before we do.

I wrote a blog about my battle with beetles on our roses and the next day an organic bug spray was offered to me by Amazon. The beetles were creepy enough, thank you very much.

I watched a Roger Corman/Vincent Price flick; The House of Usher. It was my disc, copied from a VCR tape of a local late-night TV showing (commercials intact) from the 80’s. Facebook flashed a sponsored ad for a Lego Castle-Building set. I adore Lego, but my skin crawled.

Last week, Janie and I were working in the yard (our lilies are spectacular this year BTW) and we commented that the bushes had exceeded our capacity to keep up and several trees had pruning needs that were above our pay grade. That evening, a gypsy landscaper dragging his tools behind him knocked on our door. What are the odds? Two hours later, our urban farming needs were met…and at a reasonable tariff. I’m convinced that Google was somehow eerily involved.

And now, just when I was thinking there’d be no vacation for the Leasors this year and how much I might be missing an ocean (I have long believed that my beloved Lexington was pretty much heaven on Earth but for the lack of an ocean and a major league baseball team) when Turner Classic Movies read my mind.

Presto!

The next thing I know I’m watching Annette and Frankie in a yellow jalopy convertible toolin’ down a Pacific-bound highway singin’ “Beach Party Tonight” in several unrelated keys, three chords, lotsa breath, and devoid of harmony. Annette’s hair helmet and Frankie’s skinny arms are impervious to the breeze of the convertible and the demands of the curvaceous road. Soon I’m thrilled by Frankie and Deadhead and the boys challenging the fearsome one-and-a-half-foot waves on their surfboards, Annette and the girls bouncing from beach blanket to beach blanket in their hair helmets and Mouseketeer-approved one-piece swim suits (which have clearly never known dampness), and the wearisome wonder of Candy Johnson gyrating in her fringed swim suit (which has clearly never known…) to the sterile rockin’ sounds of Dick Dale and his Del-Tones.

I, of course, have all his albums.

There it is! There’s the missing ocean vacation, courtesy of TCM.

It’s an all-night bikini binge of beach movies from 50 years ago.

I can lose myself for a night to Deborah Walley, Tommy Kirk, surfboards, Annette, Harvey Lembeck, skateboards, Connie Stevens, Troy Donahue, ersatz mermaids, Frankie, Morey Amsterdam, chimpanzees, Tony Curtis, Claudia Cardinale, feeble motorcycle gangs, Annette, Yvette Vickers, and Sharon Tate.

How. Did. TCM. Know?

Creepy.

But it was great…

…just what I needed…

…for about fifteen minutes.

Then, insidiously, a notion crept into my head.

What if Mr. Trump had been around this frolicsome group?

  • Surfing?
  • Dancing in the sand? To Dick Dale and his Del-Tones?? With Candy???
  • Leading a motorcycle gang?
  • Getting his hair wet?

Grim…and yes, creepy.

Suddenly, the bloom was off that rose.

I drifted off to sleep, pondering what a beach flick made by Ingmar Bergman might have been like; Summer With Santa Monika, Smiles of a Summer Surf…The Virgin Summer……

Wild Strawberries & Wild Egos

Movie night!

Some of my friends find these to be cynical and unhopeful times. Imagine that.

  • People are voting against their interests.
    • Poor counties in my home state that receive hugely larger amounts of help from the federal government than the taxes they pay are solidly and repeatedly voting for candidates dedicated to drastically reducing that assistance.
    • My state has over 400,000 people who now have medical insurance because of the Affordable Care Act and yet they elected a governor who campaigned clearly and openly on a promise to put an end to their newly acquired insurance.
    • These things don’t affect me personally except for the accelerating diminishing of my hair as I scratch my head in wonderment.
  • Intelligence increasingly is being scorned as undesirable. Legislators are using the phrase “I’m not a scientist” to refuse to listen to scientists…with pride for their cleverness.
  • Extreme defensive shifts are damaging major league baseball. That one’s only a concern of mine. My friends are not really bothered by this.

These are disturbing signs. I join my friends in worrying about where this all might be heading.

But I don’t think it’s the end of times.

They’re just different times.

Tonight’s flick is Ingmar Bergman’s Wild Strawberries. In it, an aged professor leans out his nocturnal window to receive professions of affection from three young people as they leave him to live their lives in the future. He then lies down to dream of his parents waving their affection for him as they live their lives in the past. He is blissfully nestled in these generational boundaries.

I think that’s relevant…and soothing.

They’re just different times. I’m OK wit’ dat.

BUT I think it would be wise to swallow our egos and listen to scientists and other smart people…and our dogs – we should always listen to our dogs. Our dogs are not all-knowing and all-wise, but all their priorities are spot on.

AND…the batters have got to swallow their egos and hit the ball the opposite way!

Winter Light on the Summer Solstice

It’s Movie Night in Central Kentucky. It’s summer with 132% humidity; just the night for a cold beer or Ingmar Bergman’s WINTER LIGHT.

I have radically mixed feelings about the films of Ingmar Bergman. Some of the longest and most tedious decades of my life have been spent watching PERSONA and FANNY AND ALEXANDER and THE VIRGIN SPRING…and yes, THE SEVENTH SEAL. Some of the most interesting times have been spent watching THROUGH A GLASS DARKLY, SMILES OF A SUMMER NIGHT, SUMMER WITH MONIKA…and yes again, THE SEVENTH SEAL (scratchin’ my head).

And then there’s WINTER LIGHT.

I love this film. I first saw it in the summer of 1969. It sank its claws in me and has never let go. I’ve watched the film about a half-dozen times since then.

It is small, intimate, exquisite, painful story-telling about the largest of issues. It would never make it in today’s United States of Donald Trump, AK-14’s (or 47’s, or whatever), Kim Davis, or ark parks.

It whispers – it doesn’t shout. It agonizes – it doesn’t sneer. It lingers and ponders – it’s not a sound bite or tweet. It thinks for itself – it doesn’t meme (is that even a verb?). It’s not reality TV – it’s reality. No need to fake it for the judges or a hidden camera or the voters at home – just tell the story in the unforgiving glare of truth.

I’m reminded of Carl Theodore Dreyer’s captivating film; JOAN OF ARC, which tells its story as a ballet of faces. You cannot look away.

WINTER LIGHT takes it further. Bergman uses his faces in excruciatingly long shots – but his characters also speak – directly and unblinkingly. There is no escape from their story; not for you as the viewer, and certainly not for Gunnar Bjornstrand, the faith-challenged priest of the story or Max Von Sydow the faith-bereft farmer he attempts to counsel.

Faith is hard. It’s available to everyone, but not granted to everyone. It has value. It will save/redeem/inspire…but not everyone.

Mr. Bjornstrand’s performance is wondrous to me. I totally believe Bjornstrand’s discomfort with his cold/flu. I believe his discomfort comforting his parishioners. I believe his weariness and desperation. I believe his doubt. I believe his desire to believe. I watch the film waiting for his epiphany like a boy raised in a Southern Baptist Sunday School should. I wait for Godot as a child of the sixties should.

This is great storytelling and nothing gets blown up and there are no super-powers…not that there’s anything wrong with that.

How I Wish I’d Spent My Summer Vacation

It’s Movie Night with Ingmar Bergman. Let the dancing begin!

I watched Ingmar Bergman’s film; Summer With Monica. The rest of you probably watched it in 1956 or 66 or 76 or 86 or… What can I say? I’m in a different time zone and moving with my usual glacier-like speed.

This is a lovely film!

The film mashes several little boy fantasies;

  • stealing a boat and sailing away,
  • the stolen boat belonging to an iconic “older dark man in the castle” – his father in this case – even better,
  • and escaping to summer islands with a willing female companion,

against the inevitable realization of what it means to be a rent-paying, child-rearing adult. The resulting sparks in this case are difficult and discouraging, but not unhopeful.

Whoa. Not unhopeful! This is Bergman, right?

I am ambivalent about Bergman. The craftsmanship is evident. The tricks with light and dark are mesmerizing. I am always impressed…and usually bored. The films are tedious. I don’t require a car crash every thirty seconds but I do appreciate an occasional pulse.

I know Mr. Bergman was famously influenced by the films of Carl Theodore Dreyer (whom I admire) and you can see this when his camera dwells on the faces of his actors, most especially in Winter Light. But in Dreyer’s films, Joan of Arc as an excellent example, while the actors’ faces are the main tool for telling the story, those faces don’t feel static or tedious. Bergman misses this distinction.

However, Summer With Monica never becomes stationary. Most of the scenes in this film leave you wanting more. How often can you say that about a Bergman film?

I really liked the film and will be thinking about it for a while yet.

Oh yeah, Harriet Andersson was pretty cute too!

Son of Japanese Noir

Movie night!

I was so taken by Yoshitaro Nomura’s ZERO FOCUS (see previous blog) I had to watch his reputedly best film; THE CASTLE OF SAND. Lucky me.

THE CASTLE OF SAND contains a satisfying quota of “noir” elements.

  • It pairs an older/wise investigator with a younger/energetic partner. They work separately and come back together to compare their discoveries. Those discoveries are meagre, but spark progress in each other through this cross-pollination. Yes, there are some “Eureka!” moments, but not the usual Hollywood kind. Mind you, I’m not knockin’ Hollywood “Eureka!” moments. They’re usually pretty exciting storytelling. But it’s intriguing to see these two hard-working, sweating, high-integrity guys tease just enough new information to keep their investigation from fading away.
  • It has bar scenes, dining car scenes, and police headquarters interview scenes. Check, check, and check.
  • It has trains. I know that sounds strange but this is always good for me. I’m a passenger with no control. I am caught in a powerful, loud machine hurling me towards the next chapter in the adventure at hand. Gulp.

It does not have Ginzu knives.

But wait! There’s more!!

Unlike ZERO FOCUS, this film is in color. Mr. Nomura uses that color to exploit the beauty of rural Japan. Imagine if the Ingmar Bergman of SMILES OF A SUMMER NIGHT had shot a film in rural Kentucky in early summer. The vistas are impossibly green – the people are small against it. The roads/trails are generally straight and so are the people. Integrity is high – tolerance is low. Hospitality is ubiquitous – charity is rare.

The acting in this film is perhaps not as uniformly fine as in ZERO FOCUS, but the older detective portrayal by Tetsuro Tanba (fellow James Bond aficionados will remember Mr. Tanba as Tiger Tanaka in YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE) is very nice.

The treasure in this film is the remarkable way the resolution is revealed. Our detectives apply for a warrant to arrest their suspect. To do so, they must present their case to an assembly of police officials. As they tell their story we see their story in painful and lush flashback. As they speak and we watch, everything is underscored by a piano concerto written and played by our prime suspect. The camera smoothly and logically and relentlessly moves from police conference to rural saga to concert performance. I could not look away. The plot twists as the story is unveiled are effective and startling………and plausible.

This is a gem.