Blog Archives

Bergmanathon: Celebrating One Year of Ingmar Bergman Love

The All-Time Favourites #2: Fanny and Alexander

Which Ekdahl Are You?

DVD of the Week (11/11)

The Top Ten Films on My Watchlist

My 15 Favourite Moments in Ingmar Bergman Movies

Very Long Movies I Can Watch Over and Over Again…

Believe me, I LOVE a good historical epic. Love ’em a lot. But most of them are films you can enthusiastically watch once, and never return to again. This is the case with a lot of ’em, and a lot of other assorted ‘long’ movies, but there are a special selection of movies that are AT LEAST 3 hours long that I can watch over and over and over, and possibly never get tired of them. And here they are, in order of how many times I’ve seen them.

The Best of Youth (2003)

This high-spirited, epic Italian drama is a literal lifetime spread out through six hours of pure bliss. Please do not be turned off by the runtime; this is a brilliant, insanely watchable and gripping family drama; to quote Roger Ebert: “The film is six hours long but it is also six hours deep.” An unforgettable film I will never regret watching. View Count: 1, but I plan to buy it soon and then watch it over and over.

Dekalog (1988)

I know it’s going too far to call this “the best movie of all time.” That’s an impossible statement to make, so I’m not going to venture to make it, but Krzysztof Kieslowski’s 10-hour Dekalog (conveniently sliced into ten equal pieces) is pretty damn close. It deals with pretty much all the themes, emotions and basic crises of the human condition, and it does so beautifully. A masterful, must-see epic, if ever there was one. Read my review. View Count: 1 (Be fair! I only saw it for the first time a month ago!)

Shoah (1985)

Though there is dispute whether this is a documentary or a film, Claude Lanzmann’s Shoah is the most powerful, full, emotionally visceral film about the Holocaust ever made. At a whopping nine hours, some will undoubtedly be bored, but Lanzmann’s movie is, for me, anything but boring. He provides interviews with those both directly and indirectly involved in the mass murder of the Jews, and provides haunting looks at some of the places these atrocities occured. Chilling; epic; a masterpiece. View Count: 2.

Fanny and Alexander (1983)

Ingmar Bergman’s magnificent 3-hour (or 5-hour, depending on which version you’re watching) masterwork is a brilliant, beautiful, astounding work of art. Sven Nykvist’s cinematography makes every image look like a fantastic, colourful painting, beautifully directed by an amazing Bergman at the height (and end) of his theatrical career. Jeez, I’m running out of adjectives. View Count: 2

Lawrence of Arabia (1962)

Of all the brilliant epics David Lean directed, the only one that really hooked me and made me fall in love with it was Lawrence of Arabia. Crossing the 3 and a half hour mark, it may be long, but it sure is beautiful. The stunning images of the Sahara Desert combined with the sheer will of Peter O’Toole’s T.E. Lawrence combine to make a fantastic, riveting movie. View Count: 2.

Dogville (2003)

Lars von Trier has made many films that have very divided opinion, and the one with the most divided is probably Dogville. It seems half the audience hate this fantastic 3-hour drama about social mistreatment, cruelty, and the ultimate price of letting everything go. If you’ve seen it, then make sure you visit this page and leave a comment rating it out of 10 by June 24, 2011. Anyway, it’s a fantastic (but debatable) movie that I absolutely love. View Count: 3.

Barry Lyndon (1975)

Stanley Kubrick’s longest film is actually 3 hours long, and often forgotten about when Kubrick’s name and filmography is mentioned. However, it is one of his best films, a fantastic epic about the lifetime of a young man (Ryan O’Neal) who ascends to royalty in the 19th century by fighting and cheating his way to the top. Beautifully lit, this scenically marvellous and emotionally riveting (particularly within the gripping last hour) film is sadly underrated. View Count: 4.

The Godfather, Parts I and II (1972, 1974)

Both of these films, which together total over six hours, are absolutely enthralling, brilliant masterpieces from Francis Ford Coppola that revolutionized and revitalized a mafia/crime drama genre, undoubtedly inspiring such classic directors as Martin Scorsese and Brian DePalma. Not to mention I can watch them over and over and over without ever getting tired. View Count: 6.

Inland Empire (2006)

I seem to be the only person who loves this movie enough to say it is perfect. David Lynch’s 3-hour masterpiece is a very inaccessible but still hugely enthralling delve into the unusual, darker side of humanity. A seemingly senseless, plotless series of scenes, Inland Empire actually has a bustling, multi-layered plot which is extremely difficult to decode, probably the reason I’ve watched it so many times. It’s really a film that needs to be seen to be believed, and I don’t like to throw that phrase around. View Count: 8.

Magnolia (1999)

If you read my blog you probably know this is my favourite movie of all time, and that is fair enough reason to watch it 19 times. That’s right, NINETEEN! I’ve watched this 187 minute labyrinth of emotions almost twenty times in its entirety, and I never, never, NEVER get tired of it. I’ve written a very long essay on it (which I plan to post to the site soon enough, pending further editing), and forced friends to watch it more times than they care for. Even if you don’t love this movie, as I’m certainly not expecting you to, you have to admit it has serious emotional power, and it is a testament to the brutal, strong ability of Paul Thomas Anderson, a man who was BORN to be behind the camera. Affects me in the same manner each and every time, and was arguably the film that fuelled my love for cinema. View Count: 19.

What are some awfully long movies you love to watch? What about ones you think are too long? Not long enough? Seen any of the movies above and have something you’d like to say? Leave a comment below. Thanks for reading.

1910-2010: The Best Movie of Each Decade

Each decade has produced some fantastic films, and picking the one best film from each of those ten years is a difficult choice. However, I’m going to voice my opinion, and make an attempt.

The 1910s: Intolerance (1916)

After the disaster that was Birth of a Nation, D.W. Griffith repented for its racist overtones with this blockbuster hit, one of the first ‘epics’ of all time, and towering overtop any other effort of the era.

1920s: Un Chien Andalou (1929)

A 16-minute masterpiece of surreal, deep, imaginative imagery, headlined with a nonsensical title and opened with a striking image of a woman’s eye cut open by a razor, Luis Bunuel’s debut motion picture is probably his best, and easily the highlight of the decade, whether you think you understand it or not.

1930s: M (1931)

Fritz Lang’s follow-up to the monstrously awesome Metropolis is the even better (in fact, fantastic) thriller about vigilante justice and the crazed mind of a serial killer, played with perfect unease by Peter Lorre. Who can forget his fantastic final monologue, and even more difficult to dismiss is the fantastic scenes that lead up to it. A masterpiece, and probably the best movie of the first 50 years of the 1900s.

1940s: Citizen Kane (1941)

Okay, this decade was easy to pick. Proclaimed by many including AFI to be the best movie ever made, that statement is not far from the truth. And when you consider that it was made by new-to-cinema Orson Welles in his twenties, it makes its presence all the more surprising and mighty. It towers over all of cinema with a formidable presence.

1950s: Sunset Blvd. (1950)

Filled with quotable lines, memorable scenes, fantastic cinematography and stunning acting, Billy Wilder’s masterpiece is one awesome movie, full of everything a decent Hollywood film should have. A “parody” of Hollywood life and existence (reflected later in Altman’s The Player, among others), it’s brilliant to watch and marvellous to behold.

1960s: Persona (1966)

Better than any Hollywood movie of the era (many of which were the dawn of exploitation), the exploitative enough Swedish film from Ingmar Bergman contains a lot of strange, deeply rich imagery (reminiscent at times of the Bunuel selection on this list), a strong plot, decent acting performances, beautiful monologues and fantastic filming techniques.

1970s: Network (1976)

Although the best film of the 1970s is probably The Godfather, I think that’s a little too obvious, so I’m going to settle for the runner up, which is equally as good (if not better?). A thought-provoking analysis of the television industry whose revelations about the truth of the newsroom are as relative today (if not moreso) than they were thirty-five years ago.

1980s: Fanny and Alexander (1982)

While the 80s were a decade that provided a difficult choice, I find myself falling back on Bergman again with this epic masterpiece that spans one year into three magnificent hours filled with glorious imagery and some of the best cinematography ever filmed (thank you, Sven Nykvist), as well as a compelling, classic tale. The perfect way to end Bergman’s career in feature films.

1990s: Goodfellas (1990)

This decade is possibly the hardest one to pick. While I admit it isn’t exactly my favourite movie of the ten years, but it’s certainly the most deserving and socially accepting. Scorsese deserves an Oscar which he was cruelly robbed of for this excellent, compelling gangster tale which is probably the best of its time, inspiring a legion of others and confirming Scorsese as a force to be reckoned with.

2000s: There Will Be Blood (2007)

I’ve already written that this is my favourite film of the recent decade, and I stand by that statement. Daniel Day-Lewis is brilliant, giving an amazing performance as charismatic, narcissistic oil man Daniel Plainview whose control and hatred for humanity overcomes him in a spectacular Paul Thomas Anderson hit, which is nowhere near as recognized as it should be.

Leave a comment below with what you thought of my choices, and tell me what your favourite movies of the decade/s are.

Thanks for reading.

5 Memorable Moments in Ingmar Bergman Movies

Continuing the “5 Memorable” series (now with its own banner :-)) is a selection of five memorable moments (or scenes) in the awesome movies of Swedish legend filmmaker Ingmar Bergman. In no particular order:

1: The Seventh Seal: Death Meets Antonius:

The only clip I can find for this scene is not subtitled, but the iconic image pretty much speaks for itself:

2: Winter Light: Ingrid Thulin’s Letter:

A shockingly extended and beautifully performed monologue, this static, almost unbroken shot of Ingrid Thulin’s character professing her true feelings for a religiously doubtful Gunnar Bjornstrand is timeless, and fantastic.

 3: Persona: The Repeated Scene:

One of many fantastic scenes from Bergman’s best movie is the gutwrenching scene in which we see Liv Ullman listening to Bibi Andersson tell her the truth about herself (well, themselves), only to have, in a sickening twist, the camera turned around as we are forced to hear the entire monologue again, this time with the camera focusing on Andersson. It’s a fascinating technique, and a very effective one. Don’t forget to turn on the closed captions so you know what she’s saying.

4: Cries and Whispers: How You Have Changed

Some great acting here. Cries and Whispers is a film filled to the brim with raw emotion, and this scene manages to capture a lot of it so beautifully.

5: Fanny and Alexander: The Prologue

Largely thanks to Bergman and his cinematographer Sven Nykvist, we have this magnificent epic film, in which every shot and every scene is so beautifully executed that just looking at any of the film’s brilliant scenes is full of so much raw beauty that it’s hard to comprehend how one human being imagined it all to be so perfect.

So those are my five selections. Now I need to know…

Leave a comment with what you thought of my choices. Do you like Ingmar Bergman? What’s your favourite moment, scene or movie from this master? Let me know.

Thanks for reading.

Weekend at Bergman’s: Five Great Films Directed by Ingmar Bergman

His name rings through the annals of film history, echoing through the dark infinite halls, a hauntingly recognisable title. It bounces off the walls of film and television, recurring such beautiful images as the one above in our minds, as clear and crisp as they were on the day he filmed them. This is a man who has literally created… history.

I say these words with assured clarity and certainty, but yet, I was only introduced to his films about a month ago. My friend has numerous posters in his room, more so than normal, all of them decent film posters, some of them relics. But, the king of them all, dead in the centre, is that of a film called Persona. I asked him, “what’s Persona, and why haven’t I heard of it?” He knew that I had only recently become a film fanatic, so he excused my blatant Bergman naivety, and introduced me to a whole world of classic, startling pictures that, to put it lightly, blew me away.

Since then I’ve compulsively watched every Bergman film I could find (well… borrow) and I’ve totalled a neat eight films from the black-and-white mastermaker. I know, it’s not nearly enough, but it’s a start, isn’t it?

Anyway, these are my five favourites, counting down, from this cinematic lord…

5: Fanny and Alexander (1982)

Bergman’s final film before a long string of unrecongised television movies, this whopper of a five hour masterpiece (or three hours, if you want the short version) tells the epic and disturbing tale of a brother and sister and the events that shape their life within the course of one tumultuous year. This has everything you could ever want from a Bergman movie, and is a fine example of his work and the places it has taken him. It’s nice, too, to get a movie this long that can really be described as an epic. I mean, the ninety minute movies were fine and dandy, but its great to know Bergman released a good and long pacing movie, which brings him to Lean-like status in my book. I tell a lie, he’s better than Lean, and this is one of the five that proves it.

4: The Seventh Seal (1957)

Some are undoubtedly going to disagree with the placing of this at fourth, but I must argue for it. Just because this is in fourth doesn’t mean it’s not one of my favourites. The Seventh Seal is a stunning, captivating journey in which a travelling young man (Max von Sydow, anyone?), haunted by the spectre of Death (who has long walked at his side, apparently) who attempts to journey home to his wife. Along the way he meets various people and is greeted with various sights, from pleasant to disturbing, in a quest not only for home but for answers; religious truth, a reality check, something to let him know life is not pointless. Bergman shows us many awesome sights, from the unique shot of the two mains engaged in a chess battle to one of the final stunning shots, which can be seen at the top of the page of this post.

3: Cries and Whispers (1972)

Of all the great cinematography from the legendary Sven Nykvist in the films of Bergman, it was perhaps never as shocking and striking as in Cries and Whispers. The first thing that struck me about this movie was the colour. Red. Red. RED. It is a chilling blood red that completely fills the frame in nearly every shot, and the fades to red at the end of the scenes must be some fantastic way of engulfing the viewer into the fragile and stunningly emotive world of the human soul. Bitter resentment, hatred, love and ignorance decorate the characters minds and souls as they come together to mourn the sickness and eventual death of their sister. There are countless things about this movie that make it a masterpiece, and I’m glad to be able to say that in a year dominated by The Godfather, there was an alternate offer that was equally as difficult to refuse.

2: Persona (1966)

A visual stunner with references dating to the birth of cinema and some dreamlike sequences that no doubt were an influence on David Lynch as well as beautifully delivered monologues and haunting imagery all combine to present us with a flawless and fabulous examination of humanity and existence, personalities, differences and unnoticeably obvious similarities. From its opening prologue which is undeniably one of the best, most provocative opening sequences in film, to the numerous observations of film as a whole and the casual reminders that we are watching a film, such as a flickering projector which begins to run and then stops sudden at the end. The merging personalities which decorate the film eventually turn into merging physical identities, as in the startling image of the two faces as one, a shocking reminder of the lesson the entire film teaches us: we are not as different as we think.

1: Winter Light (1963)

Of the countless Bergman films which examined religious doubt and a general loss of faith, none were as bleak or powerful as IB’s timeless classic Winter Light. A more than bite sized portion of an excellent trilogy dealing with that aforementioned theme, Winter Light tells of a pastor who has lost his faith, almost completely, and spends most of the eighty minute run time contemplating his life and everything he’s ever done for religion. Is it all in vain? Is there really a God? He just doesn’t know anymore, and for a pastor such as he, it is a sad, depressing thing to see. His “girlfriend,” a lonely and intelligent woman (Ingrid Thulin) deliveres a deeply passionate monologue through the form of an extended but not long letter that is punctuated with the fluid language of Bergman that is a wonder to behold. The pastor himself (Gunnar Bjornstrand) is warrented a much-deserved monologue as Bergman’s quiet but deadly little examination of faith draws slowly to its close. It’s not an eventful film, per se, but it emotionally speaks volumes about life, love, religion, existence and everything that ever mattered. A masterpiece.

So there you have it! My five favourites of Ingmar Bergman, so far. These are five classic movies that I highly recommend. I very nearly may have missed out on the Bergman experience, but I luckily stumbled upon a friend–and a movie–which changed everything.

I urge you to see these films, and if you already have, please leave a comment telling me what you think of my choices and reviews and… anything in general about the post.

Thanks for reading.