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Archive for February 6th, 2019

 © 2019 by James Clark

      Like the Bergman film, Winter Light (1963), Smiles of a Summer Night (1955), threatens, at first blush, to be a pain in the ass. Instead of the former film’s protagonist’s death march through rootless theology, we have a veritable general assembly of gluttons for winning advantage over everyone else, so smug and fatuous in their ridiculous “sophistication” as to seem not only from several centuries past but obviously headed for embarrassment. However, just as we were rewarded by putting up with the first hour-plus in the first-mentioned film, there is, in the latter (our film today), after quite a long while, something delicious turning the tables—which is not to say, becoming dominant.

At the beginning of the 20th century, a high-profile Stockholm actress, Desiree, presses her mother—an elderly dowager—to stage a summer weekend for a number of her associates, in order to create a fracas that will wrest away from his very young wife a lawyer  whom, as once before, she finds herself in love with. Whereas the jockeying amidst various cynical patricians is hectic and not particularly witty—one scene recalling the Three Stooges—(making for Bergman a much-needed state of solvency and continued career), it is the non-amorous octogenarian who makes the occasion truly sexy.

There is a prelude to this romp, where Desiree bursts into her mother’s bedroom (interrupting the latter’s game of Solitaire, at 7 a.m.) to have her write out the invitations. While the daughter drinks a lot of coffee and then skims over a novel, the owner of the estate has more to say about the state of the nation than the progressions of her flakey daughter. On Desiree’s describing her event as doing a “good deed,” the rather frail but very alert intruded-upon declares, “They [good deeds] cost far too much” (the recipient not likely to seriously respond, leaving the donor nonplussed). She goes on to elaborate upon her being fond of Solitaire. The social convener/ daughter asks, “Is anything really important to you?” Her mother, not needing to think it over, shoots back, “I am tired of people. But that doesn’t stop me loving them… I could have had them stuffed and hanging in long rows, any number of them [fine as a decorative possibility; disastrous as actuality]. One can never protect a human being from any kind of suffering [the level of grotesque perversity being like a self-satisfied plague]. That is what makes one so tremendously weary…” (more…)

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