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Monica Vitti (#110 of 4)

First Impressions of The Tree of Life

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First Impressions of The Tree of Life

Fox Searchlight Pictures

First Impressions of The Tree of Life

Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life never stops moving forward. It begins with a Bible quote and ends with a transcendental meeting of found souls on a beach, and it has the structure of a child’s memories; it gathers in fragments, dreams, fancies, associations, glances, whispers, impressions. Most of it takes place in a small Texas town in the 1950s, and at a certain point, we see a truck that says “Waco, Texas,” which is Malick’s own hometown. We have no way of knowing just how personal this clearly personal film is, but there can be no question from what’s on screen that Malick is working from his own most intimate knowledge of what childhood felt like. Every short shot preserves a sense of mystery, of expectancy, so that we’re likely to feel like a character in a Virginia Woolf novel crying out, “Wait! Stop!”

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

RKO Radio Pictures

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.