A movie log formerly known as Bookishness / By Charles Matthews

"Dazzled by so many and such marvelous inventions, the people of Macondo ... became indignant over the living images that the prosperous merchant Bruno Crespi projected in the theater with the lion-head ticket windows, for a character who had died and was buried in one film and for whose misfortune tears had been shed would reappear alive and transformed into an Arab in the next one. The audience, who had paid two cents apiece to share the difficulties of the actors, would not tolerate that outlandish fraud and they broke up the seats. The mayor, at the urging of Bruno Crespi, explained in a proclamation that the cinema was a machine of illusions that did not merit the emotional outbursts of the audience. With that discouraging explanation many ... decided not to return to the movies, considering that they already had too many troubles of their own to weep over the acted-out misfortunes of imaginary beings."
--Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Scenes From a Marriage (Ingmar Bergman, 1973)

Erland Josephson and Liv Ullmann in Scenes From a Marriage
It's said that when the six-episode miniseries aired on Swedish television, it was followed by a doubling of the divorce rate in Sweden. But that way lies the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy. In the United States, it's best known for the 167-minute version that Bergman edited for theatrical release, which is the way it's usually seen today, and which I watched last night. I remember being bowled over by it when I saw it the first time, sometime in 1975, and compared it favorably to A Woman Under the Influence (John Cassavetes, 1974), which I found shrill and overwrought. The two films have different aims, of course: Bergman's is focused on what appears at the beginning to be a happy, equally partnered relationship, whereas Cassavetes is preoccupied with mental disorder. That the relationship of Marianne (Liv Ullmann) and Johan (Erland Josephson) eventually succumbs to its latent instability exposes the dynamic of every long-term commitment. Modern marriage, more easily dissolved than the ones our grandparents or great-grandparents experienced, is subjected to the searing glare of the five-times-married Bergman and found wanting. At the film's beginning, we are presented with the contrast of the relationship of Marianne and Johan with the viciously dysfunctional one of Katarina (Bibi Andersson) and Peter (Jan Malmsjö) and lulled into the expectation that the former couple have the strength to overcome the stresses that are evident: the placatory nature of Marianne, herself a divorce lawyer, and the egoism of Johan, an ambitious scientist. But the point of Scenes of a Marriage is that we have to beware of the most evident strains of our characters. Often harrowing, sometimes sexily comic, and superlatively acted, the film may be talky but it always makes me want to carve out the time to binge-watch the entire series.

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