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The Year of Bergman and Welles

The Daily — Nov 2, 2018
Ingmar Bergman speaks to the cast of Hour of the Wolf (1968)

For all of 2018’s spectacular premieres (not for nothing does Vulture’s David Edelstein call the February opening of Black Panther a “momentous event in pop culture”) and raucous debates (Cannes vs. Netflix, T’Challa vs. Killmonger), the year in cinema has been dominated by two names: Ingmar Bergman and Orson Welles. All around the world, retrospectives, lectures, exhibitions, and, yes, big box sets have been rolling out in honor of Bergman’s one hundredth birthday. And following a run through the festival circuit, Welles’s The Other Side of the Wind, anticipated for four decades, finally arrives today in select theaters and on Netflix. So that’ll be where these notes on five highlights of the past week begin.

  • Two pieces on Welles stand out this week. At the A.V. Club, Ignatiy Vishnevetsky suggests that The Other Side of the Wind fits neatly into the oeuvre precisely because the question as to whether or not we can now consider the film truly complete is open to debate. “Among the great American movie directors,” he writes, “his body of work is the most famously incomplete, compromised, and meta.” The other piece may appeal more to hard-core Wellesians. At Wellesnet, Joseph McBride, the author of three books on the director, addresses the claim made by his friend, the renowned film critic Jonathan Rosenbaum, that Oja Kodar, Welles’s partner and a star of the film, directed three sequences.
  • The Bergman retrospective in Toronto, currently running through December 23, is complemented by a series of terrific articles appearing in the TIFF Review. TIFF Cinematheque programmer James Quandt has put together an “A–Z of Ingmar Bergman,” while outgoing festival director Piers Handling writes about Bergman’s most famous collaborator, Liv Ullmann. Azadeh Jafari has been profiling some of Bergman’s other muses, including Harriet Andersson, Ingrid Thulin, Eva Dahlbeck, and Bibi Andersson. Michael Sicinski weighs Bergman’s influence on Andrei Tarkovsky. And graphic designer Craig Caron has put together a fascinating two-part history of how Bergman was introduced to U.S. audiences and transformed into something like a brand.

  • Margarethe von Trotta’s Searching for Ingmar Bergman, a new documentary about the director who inspired her to become a filmmaker, begins its rollout across the country today. In New York, it’s playing at the Quad, which is also presenting a retrospective of von Trotta’s work both in front of and behind the camera. At Screen Slate, Cosmo Bjorkenheim finds “something in her films not to be found in most contemporary cinema, namely women whose concerns and political engagements go far beyond the private sphere, the domain of reproduction and domesticity, and rivalry over men to which patriarchal culture would confine women’s attention.”
  • Anticipating shots fired at a list called “the 100 greatest foreign-language films,” BBC Culture is quick and “happy to acknowledge that, depending on who you are, many of these films won’t be in a language that’s foreign to you.” Which is to say that the BBC has polled 209 film critics—you’ll recognize many of these names—to come up with a ranking of the best films in any language in the world other than English. You’ll find notes from an international roster of critics on the top twenty-five, including Ana Maria Bahiana’s on the film voted to the top spot. Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai (1954) “created not only a whole new approach to action cinema,” she writes, “but a whole sub-genre: films about a team of unlikely heroes on an impossible mission, fighting for their own souls.”
  • At ninety-three, theater and film critic John Simon is still blogging away. In 2010, when he launched his site, Uncensored John Simon, Kenneth Jones diplomatically noted in Playbill that “Simon is known equally for his considerable erudition, his longevity as a critic . . . and his vituperative style.” In the new issue of the conservative literary journal the New Criterion, Simon looks back on his long career, gleefully recalling a good number of storied incidents, such as the time he sent Manny Farber storming out of a meeting of the National Critics Circle. He also neatly summarizes his proudly unfashionable critical project: “‘Elitist,’ which rightfully should be a term of praise, is derogatory in the quasi-democratic United States of America.”

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