Thursday, August 02, 2007

Filmmakers of my youth

The proofs of mortality among film auteurs this week have taken me back to my undergraduate years, years of staggeringly high pretension. Don't get me wrong - pretension can be a great motivator of excellent work, though it was never so for me.
But it did make me want to like films by Bergman and Antonioni. And, man, that was hard for me. I am a sentimental guy (the Irish perhaps?) and so I really liked "Wild Strawberries". But then there were all those other films, and I could make no sense at all of them. Antonioni was worse; my heart could not buy into a single film of his, and "Blow-Up", the English-language one, was the worst.
But to be honest I cannot recall a moment in an Antonioni film I actually enjoyed. (And, pretentious as I was, I worked hard watching the ordeals he produced.)
Times change. Maybe the saddest reflection on all this was listening to the CBC One network in the middle of yesterday afternoon and hearing the newscaster (no doubt pretty young) completely incapable of pronouncing Antonioni's surname (one might think this would be simple in Toronto). She produced in one short report three different versions, all incorrect. So these years later, they cannot even get your name right.
As for enjoyment of Bergman ....
I have yet to see "Fanny and Alexander" and people I trust are all pointing at it. I shall try to do so soon.
It is still the case that one of the sweetest memories I have is a weekend I got invited on a side trip from a business trip to wander around the Stockholm archipelago and actually for to pick and taste some Wild Strawberries. It was not possible to do that tasting without thinking of Victor Sjostrom and Ingrid Thulin.
In some blogs, I have noticed people saying, "but Bergman was a Nazi" (or at least a sympathizer). With my Norwegian immigrant background, I just think, what Swede was not?
In the end my personality is just not sufficiently depressive to take either of these guys completely seriously (except for some of Bergman - "The Magic Flute", as an example).
To my mind, on Antonioni, Norm says it best:
the film-watching public has come to have less patience with 'languid alienation' as a subjective condition. This might be because there are far worse human conditions, ones that make a greater demand on our attention. Or it might be because people feel that the languidly alienated are likely to have the means of overcoming such alienation within their own grasp. I have no way of testing the speculation, but it's what occurred to me.

Yeah it occurred to me too twenty years ago. :-)


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