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Bibi Andersson (#110 of 2)

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.