July 31, 2007

La Notte

la-nottestill.jpgStill from Antonion's La Notte, click for a clip
It is rarely tragic when old men die, especially when those men have lived rich and varied lives and yet the deaths of Bergman and Antonioni within hours of each other have a poetic touch of tragedy about them — it is the quiet departure of a generation. In their time both men were wildly popular figures in Europe and, if not wildly popular in the United States, respected and adored by serious film goers. My dad, a lifelong film buff, remembers it took a week to get tickets to an Antonioni film at The Thalia here in New York back in the 60's. A family friend remembers that even in Houston a new Bergman movie was a big deal. "Suddenly there would be all these people gathered together that you would never expect to see in Houston and everyone was turned on. And I mean TURNED ON. Do you know what I mean? They were excited about these films in a way you can't even imagine. They seemed to be revolutionary and new, dangerous and beautiful, sophisticated and sad all at once and you felt lucky to be watching." The passing of these men reminds us how hollow our prevailing culture has become. The tragedy for me is that they, perhaps, did not inspire enough, or maybe we didn't pay enough attention. Where are our Antonioni's and Bergmans? I don't see them out there.

posted at 08:44 PM by raul

Filed under: film

TAGS: antonioni (2) bergman (1) film (7) la notte (2)


08/01/07 03:04 AM

My thoughts exactly! Very well put.

08/01/07 09:32 AM

Very well spoken!!

The Auteurs might be gone,
and their main drives, exisentialism vs. modernism, were so much a reflection of the horror of the 20th century that it feels really strange that this historical epoch seems to be vanished in the dust...

need to think further about that.

08/01/07 12:57 PM

This generation did inspire the Woody Allens and the Coppolas and the Scorseses but to what end? As the other commenters have noted we live in unsettling epoch of violence and terror but also, simultaneously, an epoch of of an almost willful ignorance and self indulgence. Is anyone with a voice who is heard outside his own room addressing these issues in meaningful way. Both Bergman and Antonioni held up mirrors to society and showed us how lonely and fearful we were back then. I don't see anyone doing that today. This pair of deaths made me feel nostalgia for a time and a place I know I will never go back to.

08/01/07 03:00 PM

The clip was very beautiful thankyou.

08/01/07 08:04 PM

Our? Do you mean American directors? These men were not American directors. Their sensibilities were distinctly European, and even as Europeans, they had a keen reflexive eye focused on what that meant. That eye may have been acute enough to make movies that spoke to Americans, but I don't think America produces movies such as these. Not enough car crashes, aliens or breast augmentation.

Andrei Tarkovsky was pretty great (he even worked with some of Bergman's film crew.) Louis Malle. They're dead though. Wim Wenders has his moments, especially with Wings of Desire and Paris, Texas. Hal Hartley. David Lynch. Kar Wai Wong. Jan Svankmajer - his film Sileni was great.

08/01/07 11:17 PM

Tarkovsky is of Bergman's generation so he doesn't count. Of the other film makers J Ake mentioned only Wong Kar Wai is making relevant films today. Wim Wenders made two great films and loads of crap and his last really great film was made 20 years ago. Jan Švankmajer and David Lynch are not in the same class.

Bergman's biggest fan, Woody Allen, was as relevant to the 70's as Bergman was to the 50's and 60's and probably more popular than Bergman ever was, but what about the 80s, and 90s, and now the 00s? Wong Kar Wai's films will, in my most humble opinion, stand the test of time but I don't think they serve to illuminate the malaise from which contemporary society suffers and I doubt he will ever achieve the kind of mass recognition of Bergman.

Maybe looking for artistic challenges in film is not the answer, maybe film not the most relevant medium anymore. Maybe the medium itself is the answer and that medium is the internet and maybe it's too vast to be controlled by a small group of auteurs no matter how gifted they are. Or perhaps the internet has allowed us to fulfill and become obsessed with our most self indulgent fantasies like the song of the daughters of Achelous, it leads us to our doom while we follow entranced with smiles upon our faces.

08/27/07 04:29 PM

Your phrase "the deaths of Bergman and Antonioni within hours of each other have a poetic touch of tragedy about them, the quiet departure of a generation" says it very well.

Although Godard, Resnais and Marker are still actively making films, so that generation isn't completely past.

I would put Kieslowski in a pantheon with Bergman and Antonioni, of course he died too young a few years ago.

It's always a fool's errand to compare an entire lifetime's work with mid-career artists, plus we have the distance of several decades to be certain of the quality of older work. We can't be that certain about contemporary artists.

I don't think the same issues are as important today in Western society, so we can't look to see who works with the same questions, for example man's relationship to a God figure. Europe has turned the corner away from religion. Or how revolution isn't in the air the way it was in the 1960s.

At least France maintains a vital feature filmmaking community. The same can't be said for Sweden, Italy or Japan. The most interesting contemporary talent today seems to come from non-Western societies - Mexico, Iran, Korea, Taiwan and China.

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