After the world-wide tributes, here comes the backlash. Leading the way is Jonathan Rosenbaum's cutting down of Ingmar Bergman down to a more convenient size in the New York Times August 4. As I understand it, the Chicago Reader's ace critic believes that Bergman's temperament was more theatrical than cinematical. Granted, even Bergman's best work, such as Shame, has instances of proscenium-arch covered camera work. Some of the other insinuations--that Bergman got the attention when his fellow titans Bresson and Dreyer were neglected--are a little less relevant to the summing up of Bergman's career ... as is the fact that Bergman's work was tasteful enough for the espresso-sipping crowds in Manhattan.

As Bergman's most dedicated imitator put it in a line of dialog, "I love being reduced to a cultural stereotype." You can't really tell what the inside of a movie viewer is like from the outside, and anyone turning up for something on the wintry side of cinema needs a little encouragement. As Rosenbaum himself wrote in another context, "these days the avant-garde doesn't even show up to claim the body." For that matter, even a genuine avant-gardist like David Lynch is merchandising his own espresso.

But the real Bergman letdown is Gunnar Rehlin's piece in Daily Variety claiming that the late Swedish "multihyphenate"'s archives are in trouble. The archives are currently subsidized by the Swedish government to the tune of $250,000 US per annum, but the subsidy may end in February 2008. The archive's Astrid Soderberg-Widing is hinting that their website might not be able to continue, and they're looking for $600,000 to digitize Bergman's correspondence and other writings. (Someone might want to pass on Woody Allen's phone number to them.) The archives are apparently under the list of something called UNESCO's "Memory of the World" program, so there's demonstrably more at stake than just a great director's ego.
categories Cinematical