Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘author James Clark’ Category

 © 2021 by James Clark

      Early on, in my tenure with Wonders in the Dark, I delighted in the films of Jacques Demy. In those days, I guess I was easier to please. In time, I realized that only two of his films transcended sentimental melodrama. Strangely enough, the two I came to embrace were his first two. The first, Lola (1961), had deftly threaded the needle of wit, disappointment and gallantry. The second, Bay of Angels (1963), pertaining to gambling on the roulette wheel, is a diamond-hard saga of a woman, Jackie, plunging into seducing the universe itself. How, then, did Demy become a student of ontological reflection, only to quickly abandon it? His paradigm, filmmaker, Ingmar Bergman, was made of stronger stuff.

Jackie, being not only a pariah but a poet, can (somewhat) bring to the table much of the emotion of what is lacking in civilization as we have come to know it. “We’ll live the high life.” (That latter phrase, many years later, becoming a title of a film by Claire Denis, another—more tenacious player—in the orbit of Bergman.) “Happiness makes me versatile… No! Voluble…” (Both terms having their value.) “The mystery of numbers… I often wonder whether God rules over numbers… The first time I entered a casino I felt as if I were in a church… He got custody of the baby… Lucky Strike… This display of flabby flesh makes me sick… Why deny this passion.?”

“Versatile”/ “Voluble.” The latter term can mean, “rolling effectively,” clearly the sense of a mystery which Jackie clings to as her only purchase upon planet Earth. Her disinterestedness, however, has sadly underestimated threading a needle of wit and gallantry. Going the extra mile, and then some, we have, first of all, however, the makings of confusion in the form of satire toward Christian  foibles. We are nonplussed by an apparition purporting to be the Devil, dressed as a contemporary corporate leader, spending much of his time admiring his face in a mirror. Make no mistake, this presentation is a challenge to discover those who are alert enough to see something discreet, very rare and crucial. Bergman’s film, The Devil’s Eye (1960), is a filmic treatise of the phenomena of bathos and pathos, and its stairway to the elements. Let’s see if this daunting puzzle can open your eyes. (more…)

Read Full Post »

 © 2021 by James Clark

      The films of Claire Denis concentrate upon Herculean endeavors coming to grief with a deficit of consummation. For her, it’s the quiet notice that makes the difference. In that sense, she attends to sustaining the problematics of Ingmar Bergman.

Those ironical dramatic actions, of course, do not attain to the full depth at his command. But, on the other hand, Denis has brought the alarm to the new century. The fine classical musical gems and associations do have a perennial freshness. But Denis, to her credit, has an instinct to freshen up a new (crushingly rare) era of lovely toil, pertaining to a more persistent sensuality. The contrast is less about quality than about quantity. Bergman was a genius about the forces of dialogue shaking the universe, even when no one on earth was paying any attention. Denis, in an era of anything goes, wants to train effective emotion. (more…)

Read Full Post »

 © 2021 by James Clark

      Our film today, Waiting Women (1952), will forever be understood as only a “minor” effort due to being an early film in Ingmar Bergman’s history and therefore supposedly lacking in the full sophistication of those titles having convinced the ‘experts’ to be the best. Here’s the difficulty of that position. There is no evolution of his gifts. They began exploding world history from day one, and have marched across many decades in hopes that his dramas would find those aware that a catastrophic myopia has left planet earth to remain a “minor” phenomenon.

Within such strictures, the artist has shown that even a dying planet can supply light years of fruition. The way of such supply is truly majestic. As we touch upon our early hope today, we soon realize that one of Bergman’s most rich manifolds has spread its dark and persistent invitation to us at this site. Three women, waiting in a fine Swedish summer cottage for the annual arrival of the spouses, they being Marta, Rakel and Karin, have a mind to entertain their friends with vignettes of their past. (Before hearing this remarkably candid series of earthquakes, we have, for the asking, other such women occupying those names, in other films by Bergman. Another Marta, having been a professional symphonic musician, and going on to [feebly] transcend the pitfalls of showy skills, appears in the film, To Joy [1951]. Another Rakel, having been a professional actress on the stage, and going on to declare that the theatre is shit and sees fit to commit suicide, appears in the film, After the Rehearsal [1984]. A Karin, having resisted heavy pressure from her family to become a solo cellist, opts for being a very small-town classical orchestra player, which leaves her a pariah and seen to be responsible for her father’s suicide, appears in, Saraband [2003]. All three films are discreetly shot through with incest.) Waiting Women, deletes the arts in favor of big business. But incest races apace  there, and its malignancy brings corporate advantage and pedantry to a fresh critical perspective. (more…)

Read Full Post »

 © 2020 by James Clark

      One could say there isn’t really “a Bergman film;” inasmuch as each constituent episode weaves into a very large and a very challenging reflection. Long before he began to produce films, the enormity of his concern had overrun his careerist attention.

However, within the corridors of that cosmos, several alarms flare up to concentrate an angle of dilemma. One of the most demanding and generous of these clusters involves three films separated by three eras, namely, To Joy (1950); After the Rehearsal (1984, our film today); and Saraband (2003). The first, To Joy, strikes the tone that professional musical absorption is a deadly disease of oversight, not to forget, however, that, as in many arts disciplines, there could be (but very seldom) an intent to counter mere “impressiveness.” Slightly more current there, was the bid to find a footing by which to stage counter attacks on the run against casual pedantry and reflexive advantage. The third film, Saraband, also about the perils of professional musicianship, reveals someone who has a remarkable clue about performance, transcending poisonous commonness.

Not only does the second of the deck, namely, After the Rehearsal, by and large lack the hopes just mentioned, but its principals act on the macabre premise of being herded into an act of incest. (All three of these films aptly being described as the “incest allegory.”) As such, we must be on alert for the magic we know will not entirely fail us. (The overt factor of rebelling here coincides with an extraordinary entry having been produced two years before our film today, namely, Fanny and Alexander [1982]. There, a well-to-do woman, Emilie, after the death of her husband, Oscar, who was the owner and director of a theatre, after much Sturm und Drang, takes up Oscar’s passion, and displays a sense of perspective, seeing more beyond a pedantic workload, beyond the snag of the workaholic. [Though workaholics come in many forms, it is only when artists stray that true disaster occurs.] Emilie chooses for her debut, the August Strindberg work, A Dream Play [1901], a forerunner to the visions of Expressionism and Surrealism. It is in the preparation of a performance of that play which constitutes this television-com-film of, After the Rehearsal.) (more…)

Read Full Post »

© 2020 by James Clark

The genesis of Ingmar Bergman’s thrilling final film, namely, Saraband (2003), consists of a film few have seen and few will ever see, namely, To Joy (1950). Fifty-three years is a long span; but the matters in that long-ago gem include sensibility in such a way as to expose an obligation untouched by Saraband, and any of the other films in that chain of pearls.

Before getting down to the reason why this hidden treasure is particularly important, let’s enumerate what Saraband did so wonderfully on the recommendation of that lost classic. There we find that the effete couple in the film, Scenes from a Marriage (1973), are even far more tedious in Saraband, in their craving for advantage, than when they were younger. The protagonist, Karin, therein, soldiers on to introduce an overtaking of advantage in the music industry while aiming for a career of a classical orchestra player finding gold in the form of sharing with other players attentive to the infrastructures of intention, not the pedantry of being perfect, supreme in that discipline, and mowing down one’s inferiors. Moreover, To Joy, not explicitly but readily understood, moves apace—53 years before, in one Henrik, becoming a practicing incest opportunist until Karin brings equilibrium to her métier—presents a 30-year-old siren sporting a wedding ring pretending to be the wife of a 60-year-old when in fact his daughter, and doing tricks at the homestead. (more…)

Read Full Post »

 © 2020 by James Clark

     Saraband (2003), carries much of the charges of a long filmic disputation; and it carries much of the charges of the very unique.

To enter this gigantic, swift and subtle construct, I’ve chosen the film’s moment which avoids direct presentation, while being at the core of its revelatory bloodletting, figurative and literal. That being the discipline of art.

The watchword of two of the major players here, reaching back thirty years, to the film, Scenes from a Marriage (1973), was, “We speak the same language,” that is to say, the language of advantage, which  is to say, the language of pedantry. Marianne and Johan elect to follow two similar skills, she being a lawyer, while he being a medical researcher. They and their ilk live and die for information. They are typical in having a long family history of being committed to each of those disciplines. Their work requires heavy doses of pedantry, from which to earn large amounts of prestige and money. Soldiers of Fortune. The volatility of that action, that maximum of being masterly, had, in our players today, especially in the case of Johan, a pronounced leaning to promiscuity. Their divorce, in the face of that upheaval, brought about two changes: Marianne becoming far more cynical in subsequent couplings; and Johan, after several marriages, being involved with a woman (never given so much as a name in this story), having given birth to a son opting for music, instead of conclusions—someone not speaking his language! (“I never did like him. He looked so ridiculous. Overweight and meek. He surrounded me with a sickly kind of love. I admit I ignored that love. He was as devoted as a dog. I wanted to kick him. Figurately, of course.”) (more…)

Read Full Post »

 © 2020 by James Clark

      Our film today, Brink of Life (1958), opens by way of a presence you might not notice. A muffled ambulance siren can be briefly heard. The credits chug along. And a murky way provides an endless underground cave. Periodically we can hear reports, as if from a mining concern. Panning through this terrain there are gentle, fleeting clouds, shadows from a source unknown. Why was such a configuration brought to bear upon a saga of a maternity ward? Somehow, the action becomes about something bigger than babies.

Coming one year after producing two of the giants of the Bergman goldmine, namely, The Seventh Seal and Wild Strawberries, this chamber drama here, though making a splash for a year, seemed to have become in total eclipse. Not only does Brink of Life deserve better; it is arguably even better than the panoramic two, inasmuch as its brink opens deeper dimensions.

Getting to the nub of this excitement involves, first of all, its surface of the everyday percolating into a magic of high caliber which tends to become stillborn. The woman in the ambulance, Cecile or Cissi, materializes in an Emergency Ward where, as early as three months’ time, her pregnancy were to segue to other fields. Indeed the pain and flow of blood at that crisis had its impact—a rather familiar impact. Cissi, and her entourage of a husband in a precious trench coat, elicit, from the other group waiting to see a doctor, a working-class family with a sick little girl, bemusement and vague hostility. The Hollywood dresser, calls out, “Be a brave girl and all will be fine… Remember, Cissi, Ellius [his family] expects his wife to do her duty.” (The preceding films of 1957 having been studies of pedantry and advantage.) (more…)

Read Full Post »

 © 2020 by James Clark

      At the mid-point of filmmaker Ingmar Bergman’s career (by then widely recognized to be superlative), he paused in his formidable march of theatrical dramas to do something else. First we’ll pin-point the change. Then we’ll try to understand what it means.

In the midst of his trilogy of assault and carnage, Bergman shot off (in nine days) his rendition of playwright, Eugene Ionesco’s classic of Theatre of the Absurd, namely, Rhinoceros (1960). Bergman named his film, The Rite (1969), whereby hitherto mainstream rationalists disappear in favor of crashing into the inscrutable. There a micro-second of the uncanny becomes haunting, more remarkable, to all the repositories of civilization as it has come to pass. A second form of this breakaway, namely, The Touch (1971), sets up a dead leady (and her flashbacks, and perhaps her granddaughter) as the wisest soul around. Having the right touch, eclipsing a long and lacking romance between two so-called “rebels,” and eclipsing world history itself.

Our film today, Face to Face (1976), could very well comprise an addition to that strange duet noted above, perhaps because, in spite of their audacity, more audacity has to be shown. Here the lion’s share of the film is a protagonist’s dream. That her cogitations go nowhere decisive reverts to the “lover’s” in The Touch and the judge in The Rite. But the protagonist’s dream has become so lengthy because she has a particularly intense undertaking to challenge the rule of pedantry. And in that undertaking, she has come, face to face, not with mere dialogue and dramatic action but with philosophy, wherein the whole universe  is the show.

There is a plethora of familiar features attending to the outset of Face to Face. We can note them; but the clutter of this overture implies something more. Jenny, our protagonist, has a wedding ring exactly like the dead lady in The Touch. Plunges of a sea, maintain for the credits, a cue to dynamics you should not take lightly. A stark asylum anticipates, In the Presence of a Clown (1997).  Our central character has a home with a stain-glass window, which recalls the shocks of The Passion of Anna (1969). The motif is beige; her wardrobe is even more fixed in beige, as with Marianne, the bourgeois disappointment, in Scenes from a Marriage. Jenny phones to her grandmother, on the subject of a radical renovation: “It’s completely empty.” (more…)

Read Full Post »

 © 2020 by James Clark

We live in a time when there are many who bid to confound the orthodox. Great gobs of rebels roam the town, threatening to install jurisdictions putting an end to the easy days for what is left of a mainstream. Our entertainments, for instance, smack of concussion. All these game-changers never doubt that their look and ways are destined to happily rule.

There is the possibility, however, that all of that critique will slip back to the defaults of religion and science (and their minions of humanism). It’s one thing to feel that something very important is not in play. It’s quite another thing, it seems to me, to define and embrace what that elusive phenomenon is.

One remarkable effort in that area is the output of the films of Ingmar Bergman (1919-2007). The latter’s career was not without renown and homage. But looking for responses, in such a direction as we’ve mentioned, have not found cogent takers amidst film enthusiasts.

    There was a quite unique showdown, as to this silence—within the trilogy of three extremely violent films, namely, Hour of the Wolf (1968), Shame (1968) and The Passion of Anna (1969)—which embedded itself on the heels of the production of Shame and the overtaking of The Passion of Anna, namely, The Rite (1969), with its remarkable emphasis upon deploying the motions of hands and fingers to open the elements which have been imprisoned for so many centuries. The Rite was a prototype, and yet a rich study of the vagaries of depending upon exotic and flawed rebels. A subsequent film, having more completely delivered the imperative of taking upon one’s self to find the riches of sensibility, namely, The Touch (1971), our film today, runs a gamut for all to see, while being doubly ignored within its drama and being known to the world as the worst film Bergman ever created. (more…)

Read Full Post »

 © 2020 by James Clark

      The films of Ingmar Bergman present a double dilemma. First of all, their dramas pose a very seldom recognized alert. Moreover, when in fact recognized, the intimacy almost always proves to be unwelcome. Secondly, those players actually game for the dare, find themselves unable to maintain serious coherence. Our film today, namely, The Rite (1969), is somewhat unusual in as much as all four of the characters (of this cameo production) are significantly in-the-know. But they perform poorly amidst others, and also amidst their self. (That we have declared the film, In the Presence of a Clown [1997] to be Bergman’s swan song, does nothing to end more instances of absorbing volatility.)

Whatever blood feuds Bergman might have embroiled himself in, toward the bureaucracy of the theatre and the bureaucracy of the law, his raison d’etre here was to spotlight the care and carelessness of disinterestedness. He had had from the very early outset of his endeavors, in the film, Summer Interlude (1951), a deep concern for those few with an instinct for attaining to a sensibility of kinetic disinterestedness being trampled by hordes of selfish, cowardly brutes. Accompanying that debut was a galaxy of optics and sonics intent upon interrupting theatricals hitherto seeming unassailable. The church of Bergman, thereby, tasted with pleasure the atmosphere for its pristine spirit, while clutching, as if a mathematical truth, melodramas of domestic nefariousness and nothing else but scraps of integrity, because the “something else” would take real guts. Seeing that those early communications might as well be Hollywood, by the end of the sixties there came to pass another ingredient to open a closed door. On the heels of two films, now-homicidal, in their destructiveness (in the form of Hour of the Wolf and Shame [both in 1968])—and just before the mass murder movie of The Passion of Anna (1969) rounding off a trilogy—the helmsman saw fit to up the ante in the form of a strange and yet mundane touch, namely, silently pushing with hands and fingers. This could be called a form of rite, with the proviso that rites take many forms. The display of this action features three millionaire experts in making a splash, along with one bungler killed by the trio. The former wends its sort-of merry way. The bungler alone has lived, despite largely missing the boat. Here’s how it went, in a nine-day production hustle, that no one chose to take seriously. (more…)

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »