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Liv Ullmann (#110 of 9)

Toronto International Film Festival 2014 The Look of Silence, The Face of an Angel, & Miss Julie

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Toronto International Film Festival 2014: The Look of Silence, The Face of an Angel, & Miss Julie
Toronto International Film Festival 2014: The Look of Silence, The Face of an Angel, & Miss Julie

For all its acuity and innovation, The Act of Killing always risked emphasizing its groundbreaking method—crafting a psychological profile of two Indonesian mass murderers by making them reenact their crimes—at the expense of its most critical message: that the killers profiled in the doc were not only free men, but celebrated heroes in a country still run by people who, shortly after a 1965 military coup, helped murder somewhere between 500,000 and a million Indonesians accused of being communists. With the equally brilliant The Look of Silence, Joshua Oppenheimer risks no such misplaced focus.

Film Comment Selects 2013: From the Life of the Marionettes

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Film Comment Selects 2013: <em>From the Life of the Marionettes</em>
Film Comment Selects 2013: <em>From the Life of the Marionettes</em>

If watching Ingmar Bergman’s Face to Face left a sliver of doubt about the director’s scorn for modern psychiatry, From the Life of the Marionettes makes it amply clear. Only five years separate the two films. Face to Face, starring Liv Ullmann as Jenny, a young psychiatrist who tries, and ultimately fails, to reconcile her anxieties and sensitivity to her anesthetized work milieu, was made in 1975. What made watching the film viscerally agonizing was seeing Jenny’s slow descent into depression and phobia after a disintegrated marriage and being raped while trying to rescue a patient. Bergman constructed Jenny as a character of unfathomable complexity, harrowing to watch, at times incongruent.

From the Life of the Marionettes followed in 1980, yet in its stark black-and-white rendition of psychological anguish, and in its categorical refusal to grant any noble impulses to medical practitioners, it could be seen as a giant stylistic leap for Bergman: a savage yet coolly overplayed parody. Where Jenny from Face to Face left one feeling as if we were being asked to indulge in her unending pain, Bergman’s second glance at the psychiatric profession in Marionettes is more chilling, as if Bergman took a scalpel and surgically carved his narrative, always close to the nerve.

15 Famous Movie Sisters

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15 Famous Movie Sisters
15 Famous Movie Sisters

In Your Sister’s Sister, Lynn Shelton directs Emily Blunt and Rosemarie DeWitt as complicated siblings, whose relationship is further tested by Mark Duplass’s grief-stricken houseguest. Both Blunt and DeWitt have played the sister role before, Blunt as recently as 2008, when she starred as Amy Adams’s sis in Sunshine Cleaning. From The Parent Trap to Crimes of the Heart, divine secrets to divine intervention, cinema has given us all manner of sisterhood, with no shortage of tears, laughs, and catfights. Herein are 15 films that stand out most in memory, their ladies leaving a mark as strong as a thicker-than-water bond.

The 10th Annual Sarasota Film Festival

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The 10th Annual Sarasota Film Festival
The 10th Annual Sarasota Film Festival

“Do you fall asleep during movies?”

That was the question most asked of me while attending the 10th Annual Sarasota Film Festival, a seemingly innocuous query, first time out, that took on a deeper resonance as it was posited, more and more, by family—with whom I was staying in Englewood, a nearby suburb—and festival-goers alike. The short answer given: “No, I don’t fall asleep during movies, though it isn’t for lack of trying.”

Expanding on the thought: Anytime I try to fall asleep in kino, I’m usually making a concerted effort to escape some awful, torturous, quite literal “thing” that deigns call itself a movie, though I’m happy to say such incidents are few and far between. Among the memorable worst: a college-mandated series of Italian short films and a ninth-circle-of-hellish first (and only) encounter with In the Bedroom—these two, in particular, sticking out because all my efforts at accessing dreamland (as always in such cases) were for purgatorial naught. But what of simple fatigue, a condition which, for the purposes of this piece, we might refer to by its accepted medical name—“festivalitis”? There too, no dice. Even at my most exhausted (“popped out at parties” to paraphrase Lucille Ball), I never succumb to the sandman as long as the images keep flickering.

A Woman’s Face: Bibi Andersson & Persona at BAM

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A Woman’s Face: Bibi Andersson & <em>Persona</em> at BAM
A Woman’s Face: Bibi Andersson & <em>Persona</em> at BAM

Bibi Andersson’s face hasn’t really changed. It has the natural lines of a woman in her seventies, but the wrinkles lie like intricate, soft cobwebs on her cheeks; her bone structure remains intact. Her slightly slanted eyes are wary, even wounded. As she waits to introduce her most famous film at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Ingmar Bergman’s Persona, I notice her solid body in grandmotherly clothes, her still blond hair. She’s very Swedish, in every sense. When the audience applauds her, Andersson takes a small, theatrical bow, as if to say, “What’s the fuss?” The novelist Jonathan Lethem asks her a few questions about working with Bergman, and she starts to talk about him in the present tense, then corrects herself. “I have to remember that he’s gone,” she says, again, with no fuss, no sentimentality.

The Eclipse: Losing Bergman and Antonioni

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The Eclipse: Losing Bergman and Antonioni
The Eclipse: Losing Bergman and Antonioni

Ingmar Bergman dies in the morning. Michelangelo Antonioni dies at night.

On the same day. In the middle of summer. Now, to most people, these are names from the distant past. Their real heyday in the cinema was at least forty years ago. These were old men (Bergman was 89, Antonioni, 94). More than one commentator has termed their mid-twentieth century, fearing-the-atom-bomb, discuss-our-alienation-over-black-coffee-later modernism as “quaint.” We live in a period where some of those in power have termed the central tenets of the Geneva Conventions “quaint.” Can the term “elitist” be far behind? The other recurring word in these initial pieces is “difficult.” Not easy.

You Must Change Your Life: The Films of Roberto Rossellini & Ingrid Bergman

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You Must Change Your Life: The Films of Roberto Rossellini & Ingrid Bergman
You Must Change Your Life: The Films of Roberto Rossellini & Ingrid Bergman

“My father was a genius,” says Isabella Rossellini, in her searching Guy Maddin-directed short tribute to her father Roberto, My Dad is 100 Years Old, which marks his centenary. After this statement, she pauses briefly, then says, “I think.” Her confusion is sweet and quite understandable. Rossellini has had passionate fans, especially the directors of the French New Wave like Truffaut, Godard, Rivette and Rohmer, all of whom wrote heady tributes to his difficult, ambiguous films. One can’t imagine Breathless (1960) without Rossellini’s example, and surely Antonioni was influenced, especially by Journey to Italy (1953). Martin Scorsese devotes long passages to Rossellini’s key early works in his documentary on Italian cinema, My Voyage To Italy (1999), and there’s an air of special pleading in his endorsement, particularly when he talks up Europa ’51 (1952), as if he knows that many people won’t give it a chance because of its out of synch soundtrack.