July 31, 2007
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.