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Archive for October 31st, 2012

by R. D. Finch

With the possible exception of Alfred Hitchcock, no film director made as many great movies as Ingmar Bergman. And no director in movie history has more of a reputation for seriousness than Ingmar Bergman. Marital strife, parent-child conflict, childhood trauma, identity confusion, spiritual crisis, madness, war, above all death—think of a somber, disturbing, or depressing subject and chances are Bergman made a movie about it. Yet among all those serious films he is so well known for, in 1955 he made one of the most delightful romantic comedies ever filmed, Smiles of a Summer Night.

In Sweden, the time around the summer solstice, when it stays light nearly all night long as it does in all such northern latitudes, is a special time of year. This is a time for the celebration of fertility and the time when magic is believed to have its greatest power over humans, just as in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. In the film, which takes place sometime early in the twentieth century, we are introduced to four men and four women who come together at a rustic weekend house party in midsummer, a traditional time for losing one’s inhibitions and indulging in emotionally risky behavior. Fredrik Egerman is a self-centered middle-aged lawyer who for two years has been married to Anne, a naive 19-year old. The marriage has never been consummated because of Anne’s fear of sex, and Fredrik, who has resolved to wait until she is ready for sexual relations, is growing restive. When he learns that his former mistress, the actress Desirée Armfeldt, is in town appearing in a play, he can’t resist going to see her. Accidentally learning of her husband’s renewed interest in Desirée, Anne understandable becomes deeply upset. (more…)

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Copyright © 2012 by James Clark

For a film as steeped as it is in gore and spectacular violence, Reservoir Dogs (1992) rather strangely, it seems, treats the wide-eyed viewer, as very much also a listener, to a profusion of loaded and intertwined terminology (with associative and equally elusive visual imagery) elucidating the catchy commotion. Its post-literacy market may settle for finding out how the mayhem culminates; but another, more rigorous avenue obtains here, notwithstanding its being deserted.

On the supplement to the DVD of Reservoir Dogs, Tarantino cues up a run-through about film figures who are important to him. Then, irrepressible and infectious comedian that he is, he proceeds to trash such names as Jean-Luc Godard and John Woo. “I’m beyond them now…” Conspicuously absent, of course, is the real deal here, Robert Bresson—no laughing matter to be sure, but dear to our comedian’s heart, nevertheless. Before getting into our take of the film’s intro as embracing King Arthur’s Roundtable as engaged by Bresson’s Lancelot du Lac (1974), let’s take a listen and a look to the young auteur’s GPS as pointing straight at Balthazar at Risk. There is a flashback to one of a group of men intent upon someone else’s diamonds (or Holy Grail). This figure petitions a crime executive and old friend for the means to get set up in a respectable job to satisfy the demanding boss of the halfway house he’s entangled in, as not fully released from a stint in prison. The former authority figure conjures the priest who sponsors Gerard’s rehab in Balthazar. His feminine son (who knows just the easy touch of a job to do the trick) brings forward the baker’s wife. Cutting back to the main narrative, where the petitioner gets on with the blood bath Arnaud prevented Gerard from visiting upon the donkey, there is a blackened screen and a dead-voiced stoner-DJ, introducing Bresson’s beast of burden, who gets briefly mixed up in show biz and therein also encounters a simpatico elephant. “This is K-Billy Radio, with more Super Sounds of the 70’s… And if you’re the twelfth caller you win two tickets to the Monster Truck Extravaganza being held tonight at the Carson Fairgrounds, featuring Big Daddy Don Beaudine’s truck, the Behemoth.” (more…)

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