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Hour Of The Wolf Review


Good
Hour of the Wolf is hardly Ingmar Bergman's best-known work nor his best, but it at least deserves a wider audience than history has granted it. One of his most surreal and simple tales, Wolf follows a couple who live on a desolate island (why do Bergman's characters always choose to live in the worst possible conditions?). He's a painter, she's a doting wife. Oh, and he's well on his way to going insane, with all manner of violent visions crashing through his mind.

Played by Bergman regulars Max von Sydow and Liv Ullmann, the couple quickly -- inside an hour and a half -- comes completely apart as von Sydow's visions become indistinguishable from reality. Hour of the Wolf has been described as Bergman's only horror film and that's not far from the mark, with creepy characters and imagery pervading the entire second half of the movie.

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Scenes From A Marriage Review


Essential
Ingmar Bergman's Scenes from a Marriage began as a six-part Swedish television program that aired throughout much of Scandinavia in 1973. The series was created at one of those times when Bergman was in something of a creative slump, but in a career of comebacks, Scenes from a Marriage constituted another. The series was such a hit, reports Bergman scholar Peter Cowie, that the one-hour episodes emptied the streets of cities such as Copenhagen during its weekly time slots. American distributors were soon clamoring for a theatrical version for release here, and Bergman responded in 1974 with a trimmed-down, 169-minute edit that went on to win the National Society of Film Critics Award for best picture of its year. In 1977, PBS aired the entire series unedited, and Scenes from a Marriage took its rightful place among Bergman's established masterpieces.

And then it kind of vanished. That's not to say that you couldn't, with some effort, get your hands on a copy of the American release. But Bergman's original vision - the five-hour Scenes - joined the company of fabled films, such as von Stroheim's Greed, that lived a high life in film criticism while going largely unseen by film enthusiasts. Criterion, with its new, three-disc DVD edition of the original TV series, plus the American theatrical version, restores a great film to the shelves.

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The Unbearable Lightness Of Being Review


Extraordinary
When I first watched The Unbearable Lightness of Being, I was dating a poet who had read and loved the book. Not wanting to involve myself in reading the book at that point, I rented the movie instead. I loved it then and I love it now, but, at this point in time, I can compare it to the novel by Milan Kundera. The two are both vastly similar and vastly different. As an adaptation, it succeeds in transcribing the events of the novel, but does not do as well in successfully demonstrating its points.

The Unbearable Lightness of Being focuses on Tomas (Daniel-Day Lewis), a Don Juanist terrified of commitment and a surgeon at a Prague hospital. He is trapped between his platonic and semi-erotic love of Teresa (Academy Award winner Juliette Binoche), a photographer and his wife and a erotic and semi-platonic love of Sabina (Lena Olin), a painter and his mistress.

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Prospero's Books Review


Terrible
Peter Greenaway is possibly best known for this inexplicable film, a fanciful, musical, nearly-all-nude recreation of Shakespeare's The Tempest. You have to wonder if the austere John Gielgud, who has played Prospero in the theater five times, knows if topless women are voguing behind him as he delivers his lines. Or that a child is projectile urinating in the background. The paycheck couldn't have been that great.

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Fanny And Alexander Review


Extraordinary
It's much more about young Alexander than his little sister Fanny, and although it's best remembered as Ingmar Bergman's last film (it wasn't, technically, seeing as he's still alive and making movies today), might it also be his warmest film as well? Developed, like Bergman's Scenes from a Marriage, for Swedish television, and released in a shortened theatrical version later, 1982's Fanny and Alexander is a rich and surprisingly peaceful coda to one of film's most illustrious careers.

When I say "peaceful" I don't necessarily mean "reconciled." In Fanny and Alexander Bergman sums up the themes of a body of work in which the director often brought audiences to the edge of the abyss and invited them to contemplate the void; and here, using a child as his stand-in, Bergman illustrates very clearly how it is that this void found its genesis and why it can never quite be filled. The difference is that the dilemma of existence in Fanny and Alexander is shown through a child's eyes (Bergman seldom used children elsewhere) and it's suffused with the magic of childhood curiosity and discovery. The child, like Bergman, will grow to be an artist; the director says that tragedies like those that befall Alexander are a necessary part of that.

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Faithless Review


OK
Liv Ullman may get the directing credit, but every line in Faithless is stamped Ingmar Bergman (who wrote the script). Between the immoral souls of the characters twitching with desires they can't control and the extended two and a half hours to endure, who else could it be? (Bergman's original Fanny and Alexander was close to six hours long, though the American version is two and a half).

Bergman showed a penchant for family drama with Fanny and Alexander and Wild Strawberries, among others. He enjoys mixing the imaginary world of his characters with their reality. This can lead to a deeper emotional entanglement with the characters; it's human nature to reflect and react based on internalized stimuli. Unfortunately for Faithless, Bergman is revisiting territory he excelled in some 40 years ago, without shedding any new light on his subjects.

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Montenegro Review


Very Good
Dusan Makavejev's Montenegro is one of his most twisted works, as well as one of the most engaging. Susan Anspach stars as a housewife -- who, as soon becomes apparent, is obviously insane. She cooks the family a meal... then eats it herself. She puts poison in the dog's food bowl... then tells the dog it's up to him whether or not he eats it. Soon enough, she finds herself on a visit with a group of equally strange Yugoslavians, and she spends a few days soaking up the atmosphere in a seedy strip club. Eventually, she returns home, obviously no better off than when she left. (Allegedly this is based on a true story, but I just don't buy it...) The beginning of the movie is extremely engrossing, but just when you think Susan's journey is going to amount to something, Makavejev resorts to his old shock-value tricks -- in this case, lots of male nudity and a dildo mounted to a remote-controlled toy tank which chases a girl around the strip club stage for five minutes. Tell us a real story, Dusan, instead of giving us some hokey nonsense.

Saraband Review


OK
Looking at Ingmar Bergman's revealing close-ups of actors, his deftness at drawing out powerful moments of humanity between two actors, and his use of space within the frame that lends depth to the living rooms and bedrooms his characters inhabit -- look at these things throughout his latest project, Saraband, and ask yourself, "What else is new?" Bergman has been perfecting his craft for over 50 years, and his latest offering is a sequel or epilogue to his Scenes from a Marriage (1974). Even as you're amazed at Bergman's commitment to his craft, you're also wondering whether he's truly offering anything new.

Watching Saraband, occasionally amazed by its power and beauty, I also grew frustrated because it's his same long, slow walk towards personal annihilation, this time simply reprising the characters of contemplative Marianne (Liv Ullmann) and crotchety Johan (Erland Josephson), an ex-married couple that may still have feelings for each other. Predictably, Ullmann and Josephson are brilliant, and suggest tremendous intimacy and depth, humor and hurt. Marianne shows up at Johan's cottage, not quite knowing why. He's still the same mouthy, sensitive, soul-constricted (and often funny) curmudgeon he was 30 years ago. She's still Liv Ullmann, Bergman's luminous object within the frame.

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Faithless Review


Good

For any film aficionado familiar with the intimate personal history between late Swedish writer-director Ingmar Bergman and actress Liv Ullman, it's hard to watch "Faithless" without one's mind racing with questions about the autobiographical subtext.

Written by Bergman and directed by Ullman, the deeply intimate film is about Marianne (Lena Endre), a beautiful middle-aged actress subverting her passionate marriage to a celebrated orchestra conductor, Markus (Thomas Hanzon), by beginning an affair with struggling film director, David (Krister Henriksson).

Even more revealing, the catalyst for the story is a series of brainstorming sessions in which a frail, aged director (Erland Josephson) -- not so coincidentally named Bergman -- is working on a screenplay. He imagines long, emotionally charged conversations with Marianne, who joyously rehashes the beginning of the affair and painfully recalls the demise of her marriage.

Continue reading: Faithless Review

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Faithless Movie Review

Faithless Movie Review

Liv Ullman may get the directing credit, but every line in Faithless is stamped Ingmar...

Faithless Movie Review

Faithless Movie Review

For any film aficionado familiar with the intimate personal history between late Swedish writer-director Ingmar...

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