Archive for August 3rd, 2011

Copyright © 2011 by James Clark

 There is a scene in Ingmar Bergman’s early and revelatory film, Sawdust and Tinsel (1953), which provides a crystalline instance of a little-known but must-see factor of contemporary experience (even though the narrative takes place in the nineteenth century). The owner of a barely-surviving travelling circus visits the theatre of the town at which he and his partners have just arrived, in hopes of borrowing costumes and props for a parade to generate interest. He is ill at ease (his overly ornate and ill-fitting Sunday Best adding to an ongoing sweatiness) in face of the eloquent and arrogant (“You only risk your lives. We risk our pride.”) Artistic Director and he feels compelled to cry out, “Why do you insult me?” He and his young girlfriend from the troupe have blundered onstage, during a rehearsal of a play called “Betrayal,” and so they immediately come to bear as if they were actors under the abrasive scrutiny of an advantage-ravenous boss. It appears that, notwithstanding a foothold upon the world of performing arts, they may as well be panhandlers in this setting. The self-impressed and pervasively hostile wordsmith replies to that shaky question about insult with, “Because you allow us to.” Although they eventually get the material (if not the respect) they’re after, he, in particular, having almost choked, in maintaining, “Between colleagues!” they had been put through the maestro’s premium upon unmitigated shabbiness, as he defined their link in terms of variants of the squalor they shouldered, the circus folks in their horse-drawn, frigid caravan, the thespians in their cheap, infested hotel. (more…)

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