Friday, July 18, 2014
A whole lotta Bergman going on
Thanks to a new Australian pen pal, there's going to be a whole lot more Ingmar Bergman up in this beeyotch.
I'm being a bit intentionally whimsical with -- well, with pretty much my entire previous sentence, but specifically in terms of calling my friend a "pen pal." But the truth is, I've only met him online, so he's sort of the 21st century version of that.
And he did send me five Ingmar Bergman films to watch, the first of which I watched Wednesday night.
Let me give you some history.
I'm part of the Flickchart Facebook group, in which a whole bunch of us discuss various aspects of cinema that we think other people might want to discuss. (Or sometimes, things that no one would want to discuss, but that's another story.) I recently told the group that I'm looking for an appropriate movie to watch as my 4,000th movie, which is probably less than a month away now, as I currently stand at 3,982.
No one could suggest anything where the number 4,000 was in some way significant, and I won't tell you what I've actually chosen to mark the milestone. But one of the byproducts of this discussion was that a Flickcharter living in rural Queensland (but moving to New South Wales) sent me five Criterion discs, all directed by Bergman -- and a sixth disc that will be my 4,000th movie.
I love this.
See, I've decided that Bergman is one of my favorite directors -- this despite the fact that I've seen only four of his films (The Seventh Seal, Wild Strawberries, The Virgin Spring and Fanny and Alexander). When I chose Bergman as one of the first subjects in my Getting Acquainted series back in 2011, I had seen only The Seventh Seal and Wild Strawberries -- but watched Strawberries again during that series because I couldn't be sure I had actually seen it. Not only did I love Strawberries, but Virgin Spring was a big hit with me, and Fanny and Alexander turned into something really special despite its first hour seeming like an entirely different movie than the two that followed.
Strengthening my newfound love for Bergman was the fact that I watched Federico Fellini for the next entry in that series, and was not nearly so smitten with him. I then established an informal dialectic between Bergman and Fellini, deciding (without any supporting evidence whatsoever) that cinephiles would gravitate toward one of these greats or the other, but not both. I'm sure there are people who love Bergman and Fellini equally, but I decided that I was on the Bergman side of this arbitrary divide I had set up between these two great auteurs of world cinema.
But then in the three years since then -- not another Bergman film.
Time to rectify that -- in a major way.
I don't recall exactly how Bergman entered into the discussion on the day we talked about my upcoming 4,000th, but my "pen pal" made me an offer to send me Persona through the mail -- he being one of the only others in the group who lives in Australia. I let the offer grow stale for about a week, not wanting to cruelly accept a casual offer, but did ultimately accept it, and a few days later a package arrived in the mail. (I should say that this particular cinephile passed 4,000 some years ago. He's up over 8,000 -- and is ten years younger than I am. Now that's a life well spent.)
What I wasn't necessarily expecting, but what he alluded to in somewhat oblique terms, was that there would be four other Bergman films squirreled away into the Persona DVD case. They are:
Through a Glass Darkly
Cries and Whispers
With my friend's help, I will have more than doubled my Bergman output by the time I'm done with this.
It will probably also be the highest concentration of films by one director I will have seen in such a short amount of time, as the Getting Acquainted series introduced me to no more than three films by any of the directors I studied (though I also studied actors, a producer, and a studio).
And it will be a pretty short amount of time, as I don't want to abuse this guy's good will by hanging on to his movies forever. I already feel guilty enough about him dropping seven bucks on shipping for a person he's never met in the flesh, and as some sort of compensation, have already told him I will send him a yet-to-be-determined cinematic artifact of some level of curiosity when I return the movies to him.
I do have a practical deadline of sorts as well. I mentioned earlier that he is moving to New South Wales. Well, this will only be for a six-month period, after which he, his wife and his newborn son are moving to ... South Korea for two years. I'm unclear on whether it was decided that I should return the movies to him before this, but I'm thinking yes. Besides, I have no idea how to mail something to South Korea.
So I think I will try to watch about one per week until they're done, which should allow me to get them back to him before the end of August. If I'm so moved, I might choose this space to share some of my thoughts.
Not this time, though -- and that may be because I'm still trying to work through exactly what I think of Persona. Parts of it are breathtakingly eerie, but parts of it verge on a parody of an art film, the kind Wayne and Garth were making when they filmed that bit with Madonna. You remember the early 1990s, don't you? The breathtakingly eerie parts win out, but perhaps not by the margin one would think. I don't know, I'm still deciding.
From here I might as well go chronologically, I guess, which would put Through a Glass Darkly up next.
And sometime before I'm finished, my movie clock will strike 4,000.