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

Sunday, February 4, 2018

All These Women (Ingmar Bergman, 1964)

Jarl Kulle in All These Women
Cornelius: Jarl Kulle
Humlan (Bumblebee): Bibi Andersson
Isolde: Harriet Andersson
Adelaide: Eva Dahlbeck
Madame Tussaud: Karin Kavli
Traviata: Gertrud Fridh
Cecilia: Mona Malm
Beatrica: Barbro Hiort af Ornäs
Jillker: Allan Edwall
Tristan: Georg Funkquist
The Young Man: Carl Billquist

Director: Ingmar Bergman
Screenplay: Erland Josephson, Ingmar Bergman
Cinematography: Sven Nykvist
Production design: P.A. Lundgren
Film editing: Ulla Ryghe

Roger Ebert called Ingmar Bergman's All These Women "the worst film he has ever made," and I don't think it's because the butt of so many of the jokes in the movie was a critic. It's an arch, highly stylized comedy, supposedly inspired by Federico Fellini's 8 1/2 (1963), though apart from the zings at critics and the gathering together of the various women in an artist's life, there's not much that Bergman's film has in common with Fellini's. Bergman's artist, a cellist named Felix, has just died, and the film opens at his funeral through which a number of his "widows" parade to view the corpse. The funeral is presided over by Cornelius, Felix's supposed biographer, actually a music critic who was trying to persuade Felix to perform one of his compositions: "A Fish's Dream, Abstraction #4." The film flashes back to the days before Felix's death when Cornelius arrived at the cellist's estate and encountered his wife, Adelaide; his mistress, called "Bumblebee"; and several other women who had various connections, presumably sexual, to Felix. What follows is much running about, some slapstick, some misfired attempts by Cornelius to bed Bumblebee while trying to gather information about Felix's private life, and much tiresome and unfunny ado set to music cues ranging from Bach to "Yes, We Have No Bananas." All These Women was Bergman's first film in color, but the print shown on Turner Classic Movies is sadly faded, with captions that are hard to read. I also sampled the print on the Criterion Channel; it's better, but still rather washed-out looking. The cinematographer, Sven Nykvist, is a celebrated master, so the color flaws may be that of the aging Eastmancolor negative. Only the fact that the film is a lesser work of the director who gave us The Seventh Seal (1957), Persona (1966), and Fanny and Alexander (1982) really argues for restoring it, however.

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