Bergman’s Bad Girls

Ingmar Bergman’s “Summer with Monika” was the first of his films to receive distribution outside of Sweden, though as the poster above suggests — from “America’s Fearless Showman,” Kroger Babb — it probably wasn’t Bergman’s sensitive direction that was bringing in the crowds.

Babb’s version was cut, re-scored (by lounge music legend Les Baxter, in his first work for the movies) and reportedly filled out with additional nude scenes shot by Jerald Intrator, the director of “Striporama.” Criterion has released Bergman’s original to Blu-ray and DVD, in a superlative restoration from Svensk Filmindustri, along with the 1951 film, “Summer Interlude,” that seems like a more theatrical, self-conscious first draft of “Monika.”

“Monika,” at least in its marvelous middle passages, remains the most fresh and open of Bergman’s films, a northern European analogue to the work Rossellini was creating in Italy at much the same time. As such, it had a tremendous influence on the budding filmmakers of the New Wave, and in particular on Godard, who quotes “Monika”‘s most striking moment — Harriet Andersson’s long, hard look at the camera, in which she seems to defy the audience to judge her — with Jean Seberg’s cold stare at the end of “Breathless.” My New York Times review is here.

120 comments to Bergman’s Bad Girls

  • Johan Andreasson

    This is a very fine review of SUMMER WITH MONIKA, and except for placing the Stockholm Archipelago (which is actually very close to Stockholm) off the Baltic coast, I can’t find anything to disagree with.

    That said SUMMER WITH MONIKA also an example of a movie that is probably more enjoyable abroad with subtitles than for native Swedish speakers. Bergman’s biggest flaw to me was always his inability to make the dialogue sound natural. This is most apparent in a film like MONIKA, which is about young working class people very far from Bergman’s own social circles. In later films he turned mostly to artists and intellectuals, where he felt more at home, and also didn’t go for naturalistic dialogue. But in a film like this with an almost neorealist approach the lines that the actors speak sound like badly dated movie dialogue in sharp contrast to the still fresh marvelous visual qualities.

    It’s a good film, as beautiful as anything by Sjöström, but if it was in French or Italian with Swedish subtitles, I would probably like it more.

    Since the visual storytelling is unusual for Bergman, it’s interesting that the story for ”Summer with Monika” was already popular, and had a visual identity, before it was filmed by him. The author of the source novel Per Anders Fogelström was at the time editor for the cartoon page at the magazine Folket i Bild, and saw to it that his books were serialized with illustrations, and this is how they had their biggest impact. ”Summer with Monica” was illustrated by Erik Palmquist. It’s long out of print and I haven’t seen the Palmquist illustrations for ”Monika”, but he was a true master in his field and it’s often said that Bergman and Fischer based many of their compositions for the film on his work.

    Here’s a link to a Swedish blog (in Swedish, I’m sorry to say) that gives a much more detailed account of how the story was developed from novel to illustrated serial to movie:

    http://enn.kokk.se/?page_id=6094

  • Johan Andreasson

    This is a very fine review of SUMMER WITH MONIKA, and except for placing the Stockholm Archipelago (which is actually very close to Stockholm) off the Baltic coast, I can’t find anything to disagree with.

    That said SUMMER WITH MONIKA also an example of a movie that is probably more enjoyable abroad with subtitles than for native Swedish speakers. Bergman’s biggest flaw to me was always his inability to make the dialogue sound natural. This is most apparent in a film like MONIKA, which is about young working class people very far from Bergman’s own social circles. In later films he turned mostly to artists and intellectuals, where he felt more at home, and also didn’t go for naturalistic dialogue. But in a film like this with an almost neorealist approach the lines that the actors speak sound like badly dated movie dialogue in sharp contrast to the still fresh marvelous visual qualities.

    It’s a good film, as beautiful as anything by Sjöström, but if it was in French or Italian with Swedish subtitles, I would probably like it more.

    Since the visual storytelling is unusual for Bergman, it’s interesting that the story for ”Summer with Monika” was already popular, and had a visual identity, before it was filmed by him. The author of the source novel Per Anders Fogelström was at the time editor for the cartoon page at the magazine Folket i Bild, and saw to it that his books were serialized with illustrations, and this is how they had their biggest impact. ”Summer with Monica” was illustrated by Erik Palmquist. It’s long out of print and I haven’t seen the Palmquist illustrations for ”Monika”, but he was a true master in his field and it’s often said that Bergman and Fischer based many of their compositions for the film on his work.

    Here’s a link to a Swedish blog (in Swedish, I’m sorry to say) that gives a much more detailed account of how the story was developed from novel to illustrated serial to movie:

    http://enn.kokk.se/?page_id=6094

  • jean-pierre coursodon

    MONIKA was the first Bergman film shown in France, and it ran in only one Paris theatre, the “Midi Minuit,” which was a soft porn cinema (porn was very very soft indeed in 1953). It was titled “Monika and desire” (I’m translating). The film was totally neglected by the critics and most everybody else, but was rediscovered a few years later after other Bergman films had appeared and Bergman had become a fad. Godard wrote somewhere: “What were we dreaming about when Monika was released? The things we blamed French film directors for not doing, Bergman had done them.” You’ll remember that a still from Monika was one of the photos the two kids steal in “Les Quatre-Cent Coups.”

    Johan’s remarks about the “badly dated movie dialogue” of the film is interesting. Of course foreign viewers, reading subtitles, were not aware of this weakness, and in a sense it was their luck. Subtitles, anyway, always more or less deceive you.

  • Tony Williams

    A critical study is waiting to be written about the soft-porn publicity marketing of serious art films in the 50s. One of my earliest memories of this phenomenon is seeing a poster of Simone Signoret in 1954/55 sitting on a bed fondling her breasts in a film titled THE ADULTRESS. This was acqually Marcel Carne’s THERESE RAQUIN (1953). A sleazy back alley graphic poster also promoted Mizoguchi’s last film STREET OF SHAME.

  • Dave, yet another great piece from you! Johan, I did not know about MONIKA’S cartoon background, neither have I realized the literary quality of the dialogue although I speak Swedish as a second language. MONIKA belongs to a great tradition of Nordic summer films (and summer novels by distinguished authors including Hamsun and Sillanpää). In the Nordic countries the four seasons are sharply different, most extremely in Lapland with 24 hours of sun in the summer and 24 hours of night in the winter. Summer is the season of love and sunlight, and artists have always been inspired by it.

    Summer films had always been made, but a new generation was launched in 1951 with Arne Mattsson’s ONE SUMMER OF HAPPINESS which won the Golden Bear in the Berlin Film Festival. The actresses were the best, besides Harriet Andersson, Ulla Jacobsson, Maj-Britt Nilsson and Anita Björk appeared in summer films. Ingmar Bergman was the most consistent artist among the makers of the 1950s summer films.

    One reason for the special status of summer films is that Bergman and his actors were working full time in the theatre, but in the summer they had a long holiday with enough time to make movies. And summer is the ideal time to shoot outdoors in the Nordic countries.

    Nudity has never been a big deal in Nordic countries, and for instance in Finland nudity has never been a criterium for rating. The Kroger Babb mentality in the poster above must have seemed incredibly stupid for the makers of MONIKA. Monika and Harry may be rebels leaving their homes, but what happens on their summer island is typical behavior. And even when Monika abandons her baby to Harry she is not a bad girl, just an immature 17-year old girl not yet capable of carrying a responsibility.

    Harriet Andersson had already made more than 15 films before MONIKA. She is still going on, and in a few weeks she’ll be the guest of honour at Midnight Sun Film Festival in Lapland.

  • nicolas saada

    Johann’s remarks on the artificiality of Bergman’s dialogues is fascinating. Though Bergman remains associated in my life as a film goer with almost seminal viewer’s experiences, I often questioned my ability to detect how good the acting was in films which language I do not master.
    I have asked myself similar questions with directors like DReyer, Mizoguchi or Wong Kar Wai. I have foreign friends who fall head over heels for French film rather poorly acted in my opinion. How biased am I towards foreign films ? I also notice that my fellow French filmcritics/directors often “fall” for english language films which seem to me dreadful in terms of performance or acting. The recent enthusiasm for Tim Burton’s DARK SHADOWS is an example. I have seldom seen such stilted and monotonous perfeormances in any recent english language films.

  • Also Italians renamed the film “Monika and desire” (“Monica e il desiderio”). By the way, Bergman’s work also influenced Alberto Lattuada for his Dolci inganni (1960), and in fact you have a similar final shot with Catherine Spaak staring at the camera.

  • jason fleming

    I wish criterion had included the Kroger Babb version as an extra. It would make a great double feature with Bergman’s. And I wish I had that poster.

  • Alex

    “A critical study is waiting to be written about the soft-porn publicity marketing of serious art films in the 50s.”

    Not to speak of the art film marketing of soft-porn. Or the soft porn bits in not-so-serious art films like “And God Created Women.”

  • Barry Putterman

    Tony is certainly right about a critical study waiting to be written. You could probably write a whole chapter about this poster alone. Lust and nudity at the top, awards and trophies at the bottom.

    You can certainly see the practical reasons behind all of this. The distributor is faced with posing a convincing reason to the American public why they should see these films. What he is saying is that you will get to see all of the elements missing in American films due to the Production Code, and a prestigious, intellectual work of art as well. All of the varied and conflicting meanings that our culture has the words “adult” and “mature” in one giant package.

  • Dr. Daniel Humphrey, Assistant Professor, Film Studies and Women and Gender Studies at Texas A&M, has written to the Times to correct my parroting of the commonly held assumption that “Monika” was the first Bergman film released in the US. Apparently, his 1949 “Skepp till Indialand” (“A Ship Bound for India”) was shown in New York as an exploitation film under the title “Frustration.” Here’s the entire New York Times review:

    There is nothing on the screen of the Rialto theatre to warrant the cheap sensationalism of the poster display outside the house advertising “Frustration,” a Swedish importation which is being distributed by Film Classics, Inc. “Frustration” is simply a bad motion picture, photographed for considerable of its length in such murky tones that even a good many of the English subtitles are difficult to read when they are not actually indistinguishable. Just for the record, “Frustration” is a dark tale of enmity between a hunchbacked son and his cruel father, a salvage ship captain, who desires a tawdry singer.

    A quick visit to Wikipedia suggests the film was an entry in the 1949 Cannes Film Festival, so clearly Bergman was getting some exposure outside of Sweden before “Monika.”

  • Johan Andreasson

    Swedish critics didn’t exactly love SHIP TO INDIA either.

    Here’s Bergman on the film in his book “The magic lantern”:

    I myself thought I had made a magnificent film. I was terribly proud of it. Lorens Marmstedt, who had produced it, wasn’t sure what he should think, but he took the film down to Cannes, showed it to various buyers and called home saying: ‘You have to cut at least 400 metres, it’s far too boring.’ But I loved every single metre of this masterpiece equally well.
    Just before the premiere everything was last minute as usual, and on that wretched evening the copy came direct from the lab to the cinema. I was there with Stina Bergman, Hjalmar’s widow, who had previously been my boss in the script department at SF and I’d travelled up from Gothenburg where I was working at the City Theatre, having promised to be on the first plane back there in the morning. Well, the film starts and the sound is wrong. I rush out and bang on the door of the machine room, yet nothing happens. Back in the stalls I now discover that the fourth act is being shown before the third, so once again I’m standing outside that damned metal door to the machine room that nobody wants to open for me, screaming and bawling. And this at a time when critics actually went to premieres and then back to their newspapers to write their copy. When the film finally came to an end there was a ridiculously long period of silence, and then we went off to drown our sorrows at a place (the restaurant Gondolen) next to the Katarina Lift, and that was actually the only time that I’ve drunk so much that I don’t remember a single thing. I was woken up by a newspaper boy treading over me in a doorway on Artillerigatan. I went out onto the street, flagged down a taxi and went straight to Bromma airport.
    When I got to the tiny waiting room, who should be sitting there, well-dressed, smelling good, fresh and awake, reading the morning papers that all contained ghastly executions of my film, but Hasse Ekman, and with him an Eva Henning, beautiful as a Lady’s Mantle. I myself smelt of God only knows what, looked like shit and was the spitting image of the Great Failure. I sat at one end of the waiting room praying they wouldn’t notice me. But Hasse came up to me and said ‘Some of the reviews are bloody awful – but then again, the film wasn’t too good either.’ ‘It would at least have been better if the acts had been in the right order,’ I said. ‘Are you sure about that?’ he said. And we laughed together. Then he sat down beside me, and that actually felt rather good.

  • Alex

    I suspect that it was not uncommon for soft porn non-art films like “Pussycat,Pussycat, Kill, Kill,” soft porn-ish art films like Malle’s “Les Amants,” non-pornish art films like “Miracle in Milan” and soft pornish non-art films like “And God Created Woman” often showed in the same theater. (Of course, “soft porn” is hard to differentiate from films that simple showed nudity by 1950s U.S. standards and could be conflated with the mere prsence of sexual situations more explicit than acceptable to the “Legion of Decency”; and “art film” is perhaps an even more controvetial term.)

  • nicolas saada

    I had the nonour to ride on the same bus as Erland Josephson in Venice, in 86 while Sacrifice was being shown at THE mostra. I was 20.

  • J

    Dave, I know there’s an abundance of material to cover every week, and that there’s plenty of attention paid already to Criterion titles — I’m often happier to hear about anything you meantion from other distributors — but is there any chance of following up on the promise to cover more streaming content? Criterion’s Hulu+ channel is overflowing with material that’s not on disc — something like 30 titles by Keisuke Kinoshita alone — and some hand navigating all that would be much appreciated.

  • Dave, “Ingmar Bergman’s “Summer with Monika” was the first of his films to receive distribution outside of Sweden.” is a very bold statement. All his films, from the very first, were at least shown in the other Nordic countries so his very first film (CRISIS) was also his first film that received distribution outside of Sweden.

    Regarding possible future book projects, one that should be written is “Ingmar Bergman in South America”. Both Uruguay and Brazil claim that it was they who first discovered Bergman outside Sweden, and SAWDUST AND TINSEL won the Grand Prix at the film festival in São Paulo in 1953. (It has been released in the US as THE NAKED NIGHT. A literal translation would be THE NIGHT OF THE CLOWNS.)

    In the 40s, Swedish cinema was much indebted to French cinema, poetic realism in particular, and this can be seen quite clearly in SHIP TO INDIA, which I happen to like quite a lot. Incidentally, both Ekman and Bergman were scolded by their producer Marmstedt for trying too much to be French. Ekman after having made CHANGING TRAINS and Bergman after IT RAINS ON OUR LOVE.

    Johan, I agree with you about Bergman’s sometimes problematic dialogue. Also, I’m happy you choose that quote because it is an example of how Ekman and Bergman could be good to each other, even if they were (at least in public) arch rivals. Speaking of Ekman, my thesis is now done and will soon be submitted, after which anybody who would like to get intimate with Hasse Ekman, including his rivalry with, and influence on, Bergman, will have something to read. Many thanks for the support I’ve occasionally been given here!

  • D. K. Holm

    Monica must also have been an influence on Godard in Pierrot; in other matters there are some studies of exploitation films that do touch upon the idea of distributors touching up art films as nudies. Titles that address these issues to one degree or another include Unruly Pleasures, Alternative Europe, Sleaze Artists, Forbidden Fruit, and “Bold! Daring! Shocking! True!”. I believe also that Jack Sargeant just published Scandinavian Blue, a book about Scandinavian nudies, but not sure about the publisher … it might be FAB). Tricking up art films as something other stretched into the 1970s, for which see Corman’s distribution of Truffaut’s The Green Room, wherein he crafted a trailer for the film that made it seem like an action-suspense tale.

  • Peter Henne

    Why shouldn’t you play “dialogue with a literary quality,” as Antti put it, against spry, naturalistic light and a charming, off-the-beaten-path setting like you find in MONIKA? Literariness brings intellectual clarity to the feelings and thoughts the young characters are groping toward, but without wrecking their foolhardiness. My take, at any rate. Love that film.

  • Brian Dauth

    Even though now I do not have the same enjoyment of many of Bergman’s films that I did when I discovered so many of them as a teenager, seeing THE SEVENTH SEAL at age 15 is one the most indelible screenings of my life — to use Nicolas’ term — it was seminal. That a film could be such a personal expression of questions and still be a movie, i.e., entertaining, astounded me. As I type this post, I can bring up the powerful feeling this discovery had on my life at the time. In a way, it was liberating.

    At the same exact time I was discovering Antonioni (bless you Cinema 13 and the Janus Collection), and saw how movies could explore the outer world as well. Throw in Mankiewicz films and their performativity, and existence seemed manageable for this queer boy.

  • D. K. Holm (May 28, 2012 at 5:07 pm), the book is: Jack Stevenson: Scandinavian Blue. The Erotic Cinema of Sweden and Denmark in the 1960s and 1970s. Jefferson, North Carolina, and London: McFarland & Company, 2010. The book is excellent, well researched and well written, and a basic paradox discussed is that what was a sober account of everyday life was marketed as scandalous in the Production Code era USA. There was a new stage in the 1960s when a low budget documentary (I AM CURIOUS YELLOW) and a health education movie (THE LANGUAGE OF LOVE) became the biggest foreign box office hits. Stevenson wrote his remarkable book to the 40th anniversary of the abolition of censorship in Denmark as the first country in the world, quickly followed by other countries. That act changed the world. As far as I know Stevenson was the only one to write about this anniversary with a full understanding of the significance of what happened.

  • Fredrik, that was not only a bold statement, but a clearly incorrect one. Alas, it is a commonplace in the English language commentary on Bergman, and even appears in Jacques Mandelbaum’s recent book on Bergman for Cahiers du Cinema. That’s one of the great strengths of the internet, of course — that factoids like this can be quickly run to ground by an international readership.

  • jason fleming

    I must agree with Brian seeing The Seventh Seal was quite a seminal experience for me too. I grew up in a very small town in Oklahoma and I saw The Seventh Seal on my local PBS station every weekend they would show classic films usually the standard Hollywood fare. But every now and then they would slip in a foreign film. The Bicycle Thieves was the first subtitled film I ever saw. Until then the only foreign films I ever saw were spaghetti westerns, kung-fu flicks and Japanese monster movies but they were all dubbed. Growing up in a small town watching these films gave me a window to the world ( sorry to use that old cliche). And I’m still fond of those films.

  • Jason — I don’t remember the NET (PBS’s predecessor) station in Tulsa showing movies of any sort on a regular basis (during the 60s at least). They did show filmed theater (Ibsen, Shakespeare, Chekhov, etc.) which had a major impact on me. Now PBS seems most interested in cooking shows and mediocre British TV drama. Quite a come down.

  • Lovely piece, Dave, and quite deftly accomplished; I enjoy the way you here undersell your Bergman skepticism but still clearly articulate it.

    Unfortunately I can’t think of Harriet Andersson any more without also thinking of a certain jaundiced movie website proprietor who likes to trot out the odd story of how he struck out with her, while being taunted in Swedish by Erland Josephson. I’d love to hear her side of the story some time. Of course it’s highly unlikely that she even remembers the fellow.

  • jason fleming

    Michael this was in the late 80’s early 90’s. And I was born in blackwell quite a lot smaller than tulsa. I can’t remember much about the station other than the movies themselves. I do remember the host would have a popcorn bucket and would give a short introduction.

  • Johan Andreasson

    There’s a very good book about Harriet Andersson by an excellent Swedish film critic: “Harriet Andersson: Samtal med Jan Lumholdt” (Harriet Andersson: Conversations with Jan Lumholdt) that’s just waiting for an American publisher. It’s basically a long interview where she talks about her career from start to finish. I don’t remember her mentioning any American movie website proprietors, but that’s probably just my bad memory.

    http://www.bokus.com/bok/9789150107302/harriet-andersson-samtal-med-jan-lumholdt/

  • D. K. Holm

    Oh, yes, Stevenson. Sergeant is the Creation Books writer. Sorry about the mix up.

  • Barry Putterman

    Peter, oddly enough, I watched THE SQUID AND THE WHALE on DVD last night and it brought home the point that literary dialogue is actually representative of a certain kind of adolescent foolishness. However, I’m not so sure that this is the case with the characters in MONIKA, who seem more representative of the more common adolescent trait of expressing themselves physically in conjunction with their verbal limitations. Nevertheless, I also very much liked the movie when I saw it many years ago.

    Possibly this website proprietor could arrange for an American publication of the Lumholdt book so that he can write an introduction which would include his droll anecdote. Personally, I can’t understand why anybody would want the entire world to know that he struck out with Harriet Andersson. But I suppose that it takes all kinds to make an internet.

  • Peter Henne

    Barry, I think the success of literary dialogue all depends on how it is situated in a film. For example, it can be used to bring ideals into focus that the director wants to examine. I’d say some of Woody Allen’s better dramas do that, particularly CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS in my opinion. Literary dialogue will probably fall flat whenever there is a strong commitment to realism, but Allen’s films are not particularly vested in portraying convincing depictions of routine life (though I still wish he would expand out and include more minorities–he could do that without hampering his trademark concerns with intellectuals and a professional class of people one bit). Whit Stillman is another director who sharpens the banter of his characters by giving them incisive literary tongues, and I’d say Stillman is adept at making the awkward literary strivings of some of them undercut taking all the talk too seriously. (I thought Noel Baumbach did a hilarious job of the same in the therapy sessions in MR. JEALOUSY, once Carlos Jacott’s clodish mimic joins the group. Haven’t seen Baumbach’s THE SQUID AND THE WHALE yet.) By the way, much of the classic Hollywood cinema couldn’t pass muster for believability today, in no small measure because the lines and deliveries are, by comparison, so naggingly literary and idealistic.

  • Barry Putterman

    Peter, there is probably quite a bit that could be said about Bergman’s deep influence on Woody Allen and then Allen’s influence on contemporary New York sensibilities like Stillman and Baumbach.

    Believability is always in the eye of the beholder and usually depends somewhat on your experiences and on your expectations. Johan’s experiences are different from ours and he no doubt hears Bergman’s dialogue in a diffrent frame of reference than we do. I wouldn’t want to put words in Johan’s mouth since I expect that he finds much more to like in many Bergman films than I do. My problem with Bergman’s dialogue is not so much that it is literary but that it is constantly telling us how we are supposed to interpret what we are seeing. Allen does that too. It isn’t enough that after Owen Wilson falls in love with Rachel McAdams while transported to his favorite historical time period he is forced to follow her back further to her own favorite time period, he then has to explain to her (and us) what the whole ironic point of the experience was for them. It is believable that he would do so, but not artistically satisfying for me.

  • Steve Elworth

    Barry, that character was played by Marion Cotillard. Confusion of actresses is still a major crime. I have another point about that scene and dialogue in general. What helps me be convinced is not a line on the written page but how the performer gets it across just vocally in voice work and with voice and body in film work. A major difference between convincing and not convincing line readings is the performer. for me, Owen wilson has it in a way that tom cruise does not have it. What would Ethan Edwards be like if he was performed by Tom Cruise? I shudder at the thought.

  • Barry Putterman

    But Steve, what if Ethan Edwards was played by Rachel McAdams? Sometimes I’m in too much of a hurry when I post from work. Yes, Rachel was his present day girlfriend, Marion was the woman from the 1920s. I expect to hear from Marion Cotilland’s representatives any moment now.

    The thing about Woody Allen is that he has written this style of dialogue for himself to perform for so long that the cadences and the gestures inherant in it seems to carry over to the other actors who now play it. Will Ferrell seemed to be do a conscious Woody Allen impersonation in MELINDA AND MELINDA. Owen Wilson was Owen Wilson in MIDNIGHT IN PARIS, but also Owen Wilson playing Woody Allen.

  • Alex

    MONIKA may be a strikingly original film, quite as Dave K. quotes Godard on in the NYTimes review. However, my recollection of MONIKA –no doubt blurred by the passage of 50 years since I saw it– suggest strong similarities — sunny meadows and delightful nudity near sparkling waters– with Gustav Machatý’s ECSTACY. (Or is the nude pastoral reverie perhaps a more common Nordic cinematic trope than my film going can document?)

    Mimetic realism aside, literary dialogue works pretty well among characters who are credibly imagined as strikenly literate –like those in DESIGN FOR LIVING. ALL ABOUT EVE and CHILDREN OF PARADISE — as well as in worlds or lingos so generic that the literacy is an intense stylization of the real (e.g., those of THE MALTESE FALCON, Pinter and Mamet — GUYS AND DOLLS!).

  • Johan Andreasson

    I hope I made it clear in my first post that I like SUMMER WITH MONIKA, and as Barry points out I’m sure I like Bergman much more than both our host and a lot of people who post here.

    What I wanted to say about MONIKA was that when you look at the visual storytelling you see the future with French New Wave coming, but when you listen to the dialogue you hear a Scandinavian summer movie from the 1950s, like Arne Mattsson’s ONE SUMMER OF HAPPINESS from 1951 that Antti mentions – no better, no worse.

    When the New Wave came to Sweden with Bo Widerberg in the 1960s it was in sharp contrast and opposition to Bergman (who, as Fredrik point’s out, was influenced by French 30s movies). If you look at their whole careers I prefer Bergman to Widerberg, but the way that Widerberg portrays young working class people and makes them come alive and feel real in RAVEN’S END was completely out of reach for Bergman.

  • Alex

    Johann, You’ve at least one other Bergman fan here.

    However, might early Bergman — MONIKA, SMILES OF A SUMMER NIGHT, SAWDUST AND TINSEL– be like early Stevens GUNGA DIN, SWING TIME, THE MORE THE MERRIER– tend to be better than what was to follow, e.g., more cinematic, less thematically overwrought?

    On another note, might PERSONA have introduced the Swedish New Wave? (Hard to see how the director of ELVIRA MADIGAN — as much DR. ZHIVAGO as LE BONHEUR– could be associated with the New Wave, though I haven’t seen RAVEN’S END)

  • jbryant

    Barry: Let us know if you strike out with Marion Cotillard.

    I, too, was first exposed to many foreign classics via PBS/NET while growing up in Kentucky. This would’ve been the late 60s/early 70s. I know that’s how I first saw GRAND ILLUSION and M, and I think THE SEVENTH SEAL. JULES AND JIM may have been another. I’ve always assumed they were part of some film package or series that the network put together, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen any confirmation of this. It doesn’t sound like something a local affiliate would originate.

  • Jbryant — there may have been a NET package of films, but I suspect that local channels were not obligated to use it. I know there was a public TV silents series long ago (the Toy That Gre Up). I was envious of my Chicago area cousins — who could watch this series — which was definitely NOT shown in Tulsa.

    In the late 60s, early 70s, I think the only place in Tulsa that showed foreign films was called the Paris Art Theatre (which had a pretty dicey reputation — I certainly woulodn’t have been allowed to go see films there).

    Actually there may have been one other place — but I forget its name. I never went to it either.

  • Brian Dauth

    One of my favorite Bergman’s is HOUR OF THE WOLF (a perfect double bill with THE SHINING). I love how it begins wih the sounds of set construction and then Bergman offering in voiceover the fiction of how the story came to him. Borg is put under such scrutiny that his angst monologues are undercut by the simple fact of Alma being shown in the same shot patiently listening to an oft-heard harangue. Also, the repetition of the title card in the middle of the film seems like an echo of the film “breaking” in PERSONA, but I like how the device is used here better (I also like his take on Fellini society ghouls who live in the castle).

    Also, the film foregrounds heterosexual male homopanic in quite an honest way (Bergman will return to this in FROM THE LIFE OF THE MARRIONETTES). I like Bergman best when a film is male-centered since I am never quite able to shake off the feeling that much of the angst women in his films evince is his anxieties offshored to female characters (I may lose a lot in the several translations that occur as I watch his movies). Bergman also seems inspired when he lets his German side come out.

  • Barry Putterman

    jbryant, it was humiliating. Guillaume Canet was jeering at me in Latin….At least I HOPE that was Latin.

    I suspect that both you and Michael are right about PBS. I also recall seeing those films in the general area of 1970 on that network. I believe that it was a Janus film package and Charles Champlin acted as host and did interviews after the films.

    We still have a Saturday night PBS double bill film series here in New York. It pairs one “classic” film (which is usually something like THE MALTESE FALCON or DOCTOR ZHIVAGO) with one “independent” film (which sometimes is something like MUTUAL APPRECIATION but sometimes is some Miramax retread).

    It is all rather pathetic, but I think that PBS is more to be pitied than scorned. Between DVDs on the one hand and networks like TCM and Sundance on the other, there really isn’t much room for them to occupy now. It’s lonely in the middle.

  • David Cohen

    PBS did have a series in the mid-1970s that focused on film classics.
    I saw THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI, JULES AND JIM, HOBSON’S CHOICE and RULES OF THE GAME that way, perhaps others. I don’t have any idea who the host was, but I do remember, for some reason, him explaining the importance of camera placement in HOBSON’S CHOICE.

  • Steve Elworth

    The PBS Series with Muisc by vivaldi over the opening montage sequence and hosted by Charles champlin was on in 1972. I remember because it was the year that I graduated High School and watched many films twice, on Saturday and monday Night. I t was my introduction to many great films. from GRAND ILLUSION, M, BLUE ANGEL to INTIMATE LIGHTING. Wow!!!!

  • That PBS show blew my little mind too, Steve. I VERY vividly remember the screening of “Intimate Lighting,” and that Champlin interviewed Robert Altman about it afterwards. 1972. I was 12/13. Warped my little mind FOREVER.

  • Johan Andreasson

    Alex, I think the rivalry with Hasse Ekman that Fredrik mentions was a very healthy thing for Berman, and led him to his best period in the 1950s when his films got better and better (while Ekman’s production unfortunately became more and more uneven, though he continued to make good comedies). To me Bergman’s strongest period is from SAWDUST AND TINSEL (where you see Ekman as an actor) in 1953 to PERSONA in 1966, though there are good films from all phases of his career. HETS from 1944 (for which he only wrote the script) is very good, and FANNY AND ALEXANDER from 1982 is possibly his best film.

    Bo Widerberg is an interesting guy. He started as a novelist and got involved in film debates in the early 60s where his position was that Swedish movies were boring: provincial and traditional. He wanted Swedish film to be inspired by the best that was produced in Europe and the U.S. BARNVAGNEN and RAVEN’S NEST (both from 1963) are the ones where you see the New Wave influences most clearly, and MAN ON THE ROOF (1976) is his American 70s movie. In the 60s and 70s he had a rivalry with Bergman a little like that Ekman had in the 40s and 50s. To continue recommending books in Swedish that only three or four people here will be able to read read, last years Widerberg biography “Höggradigt jävla excentrisk” (Highly Bloody Eccentric) is one of the best books on a movie director I’ve read. The title says a lot about why Widerberg’s list of works is rather short: he was extremely demanding and difficult to work with, but his best films are among the best Swedish films of all time.

    Brian, speaking of double bills THE SILENCE would make a good one together with almost any David Lynch movie.

  • Alex (May 29, 2012 at 5:17 pm): Gustav Machaty’s ECSTASY was a favourite film of Ingmar Bergman as a teenager. It was not more daring than Nordic films (or TARZAN AND HIS MATE), but its level of artistic inspiration moved Bergman deeply, and he was always fond of ECSTASY.

    Another early favourite of Bergman’s was LE QUAI DES BRUMES, as can be felt in THE SHIP TO INDIA.

  • nicolas saada

    Prime time tv was also my introduction to classic films. It seems today that the internet and the dvd has replaced the role of public television. I am not certain that the replacement is worth its while for younger audiences. Public television imposed a sort of guideline to these films that no other medium can offer in this world of abundance.
    This thread on the language in film is fascinating. junko, if you are reading this thread, would you add your contribution? Are western audiences confused and biased towards some japanese filmmakers and the performances in their films ? I recently watched VENGEANCE IS MINE by Imamura, and felt that the performances in the film seemed more realistic and contained than in other japanese films I had seen. I often notice the difference of intonation between the films by Ozu and those by Kurosawa. The acting in the latter seems more emphatic, whereas ozu’s films display a quiet tone. It does not however affect my fondness for both directors.

  • When talking about Bergman’s influences one must thread carefully. He was an omnivore and a cinephile, and, as I tweeted the other day, in 1940 he wrote what might be called an auteurist manifest. The filmmakers he listed there as favourites there were: Duvivier, Carné, Capra, Lubitsch, Lang, Hitchcock, Cocteau, Renoir, Feyder, Borzage, Korda, Pudovkin, Chaplin and Mamoulian. (He had mixed feelings about Guitry, Sherman, Bacon, Arzner, Liebeneiner, Hathaway, van Dyke, Boleslawski and Werker.) He has on other occasions mentioned being particularly fond of the trio of Cukor, Wellman and Wilder, as well as following the work of Raoul Walsh, Michael Curtiz and Roberto Rossellini. In later years he was a fan of Andrzej Wajda. Among Swedish filmmakers he liked Schamyl Bauman, Alf Sjöberg, Widerberg and Jan Troell, among others.

    I think Bergman’s own career can be divided into different stages. First the apprentice years, 1946 to 1950. Then, beginning with SUMMER INTERLUDE, came the consolidation years, when he became a contracted director at SF. Then, following the Cannes win with SMILES OF A SUMMER NIGHT, came the iconoclastic years, beginning with THE SEVENTH SEAL and lasting until 1968. That’s when he left SF and went from being under contract to becoming an independent, and working for TV. For me, he was fairly stable from 1950 to 1966 (it is tempting to draw the conclusion that Bergman worked best when under contract). Before and after he was hit and miss, with FANNY AND ALEXANER and IN THE PRESENCE OF A CLOWN being among his very best.

    Alex, when PERSONA came out, the “Swedish New Wave” was already getting on in years, having begun in 1963, conventionally speaking.

    When Ekman was asked about films in the 60s he answered that they were merely doing what he and the others had done in the 40s. When Bergman in 1962 was asked about the 40s he said that it had felt like being part of a new wave, only nobody ever used that term. That is also an argument I make in my thesis.

  • Britain’s Artificial Eye has a new set in release, “Classic Bergman,” which includes A SHIP BOUND FOR INDIA: http://www.dvdbeaver.com/film4/blu-ray_reviews57/classic_bergman_blu-ray_.htm

  • Oliver_C

    How sadly appropriate for this thread — the director of The Naked Island, Kaneto Shindō, has passed away at the enviable age of 100.

  • Johan Andreasson

    It’s certainly true that Bergman’s influences came from all over the place, and the same goes for the directors who were influenced by him. One director Bergman admired very much was Kurosawa, and you might say that THE VIRGIN SPRING is Bergman’s RASHOMON. While SUMMER WITH MONIKA struck a chord in Godard, and we got BREATHLESS, THE VIRGIN SPRING spoke to Wes Craven, and we got THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT. Film history marches on.

  • Junko Yasutani

    “Are western audiences confused and biased towards some japanese filmmakers and the performances in their films ? I recently watched VENGEANCE IS MINE by Imamura, and felt that the performances in the film seemed more realistic and contained than in other japanese films I had seen. I often notice the difference of intonation between the films by Ozu and those by Kurosawa. The acting in the latter seems more emphatic, whereas ozu’s films display a quiet tone. It does not however affect my fondness for both directors.’

    I do not know about bias, but there is difference in acting style from each director that you mention. Acting style in Ozu movie is not realistic portrait of Japanese person. It is artificial, it is like Noh drama in modern form, typifying some aspect of personality. In Noh drama small gesture carries much meaning, also similar to Ozu acting style.

    For Kurosawa there is larger emotion showing. I don’t want to make confusion, but if Ozu is reminding of Noh drama than Kurosawa is like Kabuki acting (this is not exact comparison to Kurosawa and Kabuki.)

    Imamura acting style is from different tradition and different era. I have remembered word that describes differences. It is convention, different acting style convention for Imamura movie comes from different historical circumstance and intention to make realistic portrait of people.

    Because there is different streams of acting convention in Japanese drama (movies and theater) coexisting, Japanese audience can understand differences in particular movie and intention of using specific acting style.