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

Monday, March 21, 2016

The Devil's Eye (Ingmar Bergman, 1960)

Jarl Kulle and Bibi Andersson in The Devil's Eye
You'd think artists would be content to let Mozart and Da Ponte have the last word on Don Juan, but no. Byron, Pushkin, Kierkegaard, Shaw, and Camus all had their go at him, so why not Bergman? This rather turgid and talky fantasy has the Don (Jarl Kulle) returning to earth to seduce Britt-Marie (Bibi Andersson), a young woman whose virginity has caused a proverbial sty in the devil's (Stig Järrel) eye. That so much ado is made about the virginity of a woman about to be married in 1960's Sweden is only one of the problems with the movie's setup. She's the daughter of a vicar (Nils Poppe) in a small Swedish village whose wife, Renata (Gertrud Fridh), feels neglected and has sunk into a psychosomatic invalidism. When Don Juan arrives, he brings along his manservant, Pablo (Sture Lagerwall), who takes it on himself to seduce Renata. What starts out to be a sex farce turns into a disquisition on the nature of love. It's not helped by the archness of some of the performances, especially Andersson's. She's made up and costumed to look like the heroine of an early 1960s domestic sitcom like The Donna Reed Show, and it's hardly plausible that she should choose her goofy fiancé, Jonas (Axel Düberg), over the brooding but intelligent Don. Bergman clashed with his longtime cinematographer Gunnar Fischer during filming, putting an end to their collaboration but opening the way to an even more fruitful one with Sven Nykvist.