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Sawdust And Tinsel (#110 of 2)

Ingmar Bergman’s Sawdust and Tinsel on Criterion

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Ingmar Bergman’s Sawdust and Tinsel on Criterion
Ingmar Bergman’s Sawdust and Tinsel on Criterion

Ingmar Bergman made eleven films before his breakthrough, Summer with Monika (1952), where he seemed to be stimulated by filming his lover at the time, Harriet Andersson, a bluntly carnal brunette. Andersson is also crucial to his next film, Sawdust and Tinsel (1953), marketed in the US as The Naked Night. There’s no real nudity in the movie, though Andersson’s breasts often threaten to burst out of her period clothing and, as always, her big, wet, striated lips are so central to the images that they should have their own special billing. In the famous flashback that comes at the beginning of the film, Alma (Gudrun Brost), a coarse, aging blond desperately trying to prove that she’s still attractive, cavorts nude in the sea with a regiment of soldiers. Her clown husband (Anders Ek) pulls her out of the water, covering her nakedness with his body. But there’s no covering the nakedness of his emotions under his heavy clown make-up, and no possible way to cover up his wife’s disgrace.

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.