A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984, New Line Cinema)

61 Days of Halloween 2015 & In Memoriam: Wes Craven

Today is a big day on this blog.

Vampyr (1932)

First, as you may have noticed I already posted my 6th and final contribution to the Summer Reading Classic Film Book Challenge.

The Movie Rat

Secondly, it’s the first of the month, therefore, it means it’s time to compile another list of BAM Awards considerations. Those can be viewed here.

My Soul to Take (2010, Rogue)

Thirdly, September 1st marks the first day of my most gargantuan of annual themes known as 61 Days of Halloween.

As the name indicates, I will be focused on horror films for the next two months. However, thanks to the backlog of films I’ve written on and can repurpose, the site will not stay myopic.

Furthermore, I would be remiss in starting a horror film theme without a few words about Wes Craven.

In Memoriam: Wes Craven

Wes Craven (2015, Wes Craven)

There is a nearly invariable amount of adoration that comes to the fore when a beloved filmmaker or actor dies. With Craven it is genuine, and speaking only for myself, these glowing praises for many of his works have not been formed posthumously.

Writing in the zeitgeist about My Soul to Take I was higher on it than most giving it not only this review, but placing it in my top 10 of 2010.

Prior 61 Days of Halloweens got me more up-to-date on his most iconic series. As a child, like many youngsters in the ‘80s; Freddy did scare me, and I caught pieces of the films but didn’t sit down to see all of them until recently. New Nightmare’s inclusion on this list is a testament to the brilliance of its reinventing the series.

Wes Craven's New Nightmare (1994, New Line Cinema)

Some Craven films I had not gotten a chance to see yet for one reason or another will be a focus this year. In my Lifetime Achievement Awards I try in a maverick spirit to buck the Oscar trend and not award people “too late,” but you can’t get them all (I have gotten horror represented though). However, as Edgar Wright brilliantly stated: “It’s never too late to see a movie.” So I will become more a completist with him this year.

Happy Horrors all, may you find those films that sate your need for catharsis and may you find the works of Craven if you have not yet.

Rest in peace, Wes.

Wes Craven (All Rights Reserved)

Cub (2014, Artsploitation Films)

2015 BAM Award Considerations – August

It seems that awards season on this blog just ended, however, assembling those nominees is a year-long process. So the cycle begins anew with posts at the end of the month and master lists offline in preparation for the big dates of the award’s calendar year. A collection of most, if not all titles viewed, can be seen on my Letterboxd.

Eligible Titles

Sinister 2
American Ultra
Addicted to Fresno
Cop Car
Ten Thousand Saints
Mr. Holmes
Shaun the Sheep Movie
Fantastic Four
The Gift
A Wolf at the Door
Cub
Teen Beach 2
Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation

Best Picture

Sinister 2
Mr. Holmes
The Gift
A Wolf at the Door
Cub
Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation

Best Foreign Film

A Wolf at the Door
Cub

Best Documentary

Most Overlooked Picture

As intimated in my Most Underrated announcement this year, I’ve decided to make a change here. Rather than get caught up in me vs. the world nonsense and what a film’s rating is on an aggregate site, the IMDb or anywhere else, I want to champion smaller, lesser-known films. In 2011 with the selection of Toast this move was really in the offing. The nominees from this past year echo that fact. So here, regardless of how well-received something is by those who’ve seen it, I’ll be championing indies and foreign films, and the occasional financial flop from a bigger entity.

Sinister 2
Addicted to Fresno
A Wolf at the Door
Cub

Best Director

Sinister 2
Mr. Holmes
The Gift
A Wolf at the Door
Cub
Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation

Best Actress

Kristen Stewart American Ultra
Judy Greer Addicted to Fresno
Laura Linney Mr. Holmes
Rebecca Hall The Gift
Leandra Leal A Wolf at the Door

Best Actor

James Ransone Sinister 2
Jesse Eisenberg American Ultra
Sir Ian McKellen Mr. Holmes
Jason Bateman The Gift
Milhem Cortaz A Wolf at the Door

Best Supporting Actress

Natasha Lyonne Addicted to Fresno
Fabiula Nascimento A Wolf at the Door
Evelien Bosmans Cub

Best Supporting Actor

Kevin Bacon Cop Car
Ethan Hawke Ten Thousand Saints
Joel Edgerton The Gift
Titus de Voogt Cub
Garrett Clayton Teen Beach 2
Simon Pegg Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation

Best Performance by a Young Actress in a Leading Role

Hailee Steinfeld Ten Thousand Saints

Best Performance by a Young Actor in a Leading Role

Robert Daniel Sloan Sinister 2
James Freedson-Jackson Cop Car
Hays Wellford Cop Car
Asa Butterfield Ten Thousand Saints
Maurice Luijten Cub

Best Performance by a Young Actress in a Supporting Role

Laila Haley Sinister 2
Isabelle Ribas A Wolf at the Door

Best Performance by a Young Actor in a Supporting Role

Lucas Jade Zumann Sinister 2
Dartanian Sloan Sinister 2
Jaden Klein Sinister 2
Caden M. Fritz Sinister 2
Milo Parker Mr. Holmes
Louis Lemmens Cub

Best Cast

Sinister 2
American Ultra
Ten Thousand Saints
Mr. Holmes
The Gift
A Wolf at the Door
Cub

Best Youth Ensemble

Sinister 2
Cub

Best Original Screenplay

Sinister 2
American Ultra
Shaun the Sheep Movie
The Gift
A Wolf at the Door
Cub

Best Adapted Screenplay

Mr. Holmes
Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation

Best Score

Sinister 2
Cop Car
Mr. Holmes
The Gift
Cub

Best Editing

Sinister 2
Mr. Holmes
The Gift
Cub
Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation

Best Sound Editing/Mixing

Sinister 2
American Ultra
Cop Car
A Wolf at the Door
Cub
Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation

Best Cinematography

Sinister 2
Mr. Holmes
The Gift
Cub
Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation

Best Art Direction

Sinister 2
Ten Thousand Saints
Mr. Holmes
The Gift
Cub
Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation

Best Costume Design

Sinister 2
Ten Thousand Saints
Mr. Holmes
Cub

Best Makeup

Sinister 2
Cop Car
Mr. Holmes
Cub

Best Visual Effects

Cub
Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation

Best (Original) Song

Theme Shaun the Sheep Movie
Camp song Cub
Original songs Teen Beach 2

I commented last year that there was a film that had me reconsidering the soundtrack as a potential category. It’s happened again so I will be tracking it and seeing if it’s worth re-including this year.

Best Soundtrack

American Ultra
Ten Thousand Saints

Summer Reading Classic Film Book Challenge (2015, Out of the Past)

Summer Reading Classic Film Book Challenge: Writing Vampyr by Carl Theodor Dryer, Christen Jul, and Sheridan Le Fanu

Introduction

The final book that I selected for the Summer Reading Classic Film Book Challenge was actually a back-up option. In scanning my unread titles two that slipped through the cracks were books that were included as supplemental features on Criterion Collection releases. And by books I don’t mean booklets, which are standard, but actual paperbacks which are rarer.

A Side Trip

Mr. Arkadin (Criterion)

The first book I tried to read was Mr. Arkadin by Orson Welles. This is the novelization of Welles’ script, alternately called Confidential Report. I saw the four cuts of the film in a weeks’ time therefore decided to wait on the book. While the story of the strange nature of this novel, which ran serialized in France, and was later translated back into English presumably making it less than Welles original version (again!); I lost interest as it read slow and I was juggling a few other books. It’s a rare case of my successfully enacting the Brautigan Rule, as described by Stephen King in Hearts in Atlantis (the character Ted Brautigan encouraged Bobby to read more by moving on to another book after it’s 10-20% read if he’s not interested). I may come back to it, but not right now. Maybe next year if the blogathon returns.

Writing Vampyr (Vampyr by Carl Theodor Dreyer and Christen Jul and Carmilla by Sheridan Le Fanu)

Writing Vampyr (Criterion)

What I decided on was Writing Vampyr, which was included in Criterion’s release of Vampyr (1932). This seminal vampire film is often overlooked in part because it has neither the flash of German Expressionism nor the iconic makeup work of Nosfertau. Yet Vampyr as an early sound film still is built mostly on imagery and is not a locked-down camera early sound film.

This book is composed of two texts: the original screenplay by Dreyer and Jul and the novella from which it draws quite a bit of inspiration, but is not a literal adaptation of, Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla. The fact that these two titles work more like companion pieces than identical texts makes this a very enjoyable reading experience.

As for the screenplay, I can’t help but feel it actually contains a better vision for the story than the film does. It’s what would have qualified as a “great flawed film” in Truffaut’s parlance as the script wasn’t entirely feasible to shoot due to technological restraints at time as well as budgetary ones. Full credit goes to Criterion here for including the full text denoting in two different ways what was excised from the script and when in the process of pre-production. As I touched upon in my Ingrid Bergman Blogathon post, both time and country play a role in dictating screenplay form, and it is ever-changing. With the amount of prose in the script it really is like reading two novellas. And that should ingratiate it to the uninitiated in screenplays.

Vampyr (1932)

If Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla intrigues you the collection from which it is culled, In a Glass Darkly, can be found digitally online for free. As for Carmilla itself it should be of interest simply for all the adaptations its inspired like The Blood Splattered Bride, Twins of Evil, Let’s Scare Jessica to Death, Lust for a Vampire, Vampire Lovers, Crypt of the Vampire, Blood and Roses, and more.

What was surprising is that the introduction cited the story as having undertones of lesbianism, but for the time in which it was written it seemed rather overt. I can only imagine that maybe it read more as an undertone back then because the phrase “the love that dare not speak its name,” had not been coined.

The language, as per usual in the Victorian era in my estimation, is brilliant, yet  here concise and not overly-florid such that it obscures meaning and intent. It’s also a relief to read things described in detail anew as the sparsity of modern description can leave one wanting on occasion.

These two pair beautifully together and truly demonstrates the elasticity that film has when adapting the written word.

Summer Reading Classic Film Book Challenge (2015, Out of the Past)

Summer Reading Classic Film Book Challenge: They Still Call Me Junior by Frank Coghlan, Jr.

In 2009 Frank Coghlan, better known by his screen name Junior Coghlan, died. At that time I wrote an In Memoriam for him on the Site That Shall Not Be Named. Owing to the fact that I was looking for new material, and obits tend to be topical, I never re-published it here on The Movie Rat.

Adventures of Captain Marvel (1941, Republic Pictures)

It seems appropriate to do so now as it makes a perfect jumping off point for discussing this book:

Frank Coghlan Jr., who was a child actor in the silent film era passed away quietly last month of natural causes at the ripe old age of 93. He was the kid who brought the phrase “Shazam!” into the American consciousness and played Captain Marvel later on in a serial, the pre-transformation Captain Marvel.

He started at the age of three appearing in a Western serial called Daredevil Jack. He was typically credited as Junior Coghlan and left his mark indelibly in this chapter play Bruce Goldstein, Director of Repertory Programming at New York’s world famous Film Forum lauds it “It’s considered by many aficionados as the best cliffhanger serial of all time,” and continues saying “What a great fantasy for kids: a kid who turns into a superhero.”

Leonard Maltin puts Coghlan’s place in history further in perspective by saying “If you went to the movies in those days, you couldn’t help but know him, even though he was never a major star,” which, of course, places his importance in as much as he made up the tapestry of cinema when films and movie stars whether A-List or not where a part of American culture and something everyone was well versed in.

In 1925 legendary director/producer Cecil B. DeMille signed him to a five-year deal on the strength of his publicity stills. Another small yet important role he had was as the young James Cagney in Public Enemy.

Yet it is Captain Marvel and “Shazam!” for which he is most remembered. For many who toil and seek a serious dramatic career a singular, ubiquitous role, one to which they are always associated can be a burden and later on even a regret and something they seek to forget. Coghlan frequented conventions and seminars in his later years and was always pleased when people recognized him or came to see him. So appreciative was that according to Leonard Maltin he even personalized his license plate to read “Shazam.”

Some people in entertainment don’t realize their good fortune and look a gift horse in the mouth. Frank Coghlan, Jr. was not one of those people and now left with only memories of classic film moments it is we, the film fans, who didn’t know how lucky we were.

Rubber Tires

I cannot say for certain how many of his films I had seen at that point. The Adventures of Captain Marvel was definitely one of them. While in my limited experience I can’t say I agree about it being the very best serial, it is a superlative one. I was impelled to write that obit based on the one the New York Times wrote for him. It was touching to me that he still held that experience dear rather than feeling embittered that he was still identified by that work no matter where life took him.

Since then I have seen quite a few more Coghlan films, and may see more yet. Some of these include titles from when he really was a kid, as he was in his twenties when he made The Adventures of Captain Marvel. I liked him as a performer, and still with that obit in mind I was curious to read his biography.

Like many books and films do it languished on my Amazon Wish List for years. Due to this blogathon, I returned to Amazon resorted the used offers and found a cheap one.

Junior Coghlan

Even more so than with prior reviews in this blogathon I do not want to spoil the surprises in store in this book. There are 76 chapters, most of them quite short, wherein Junior regales you with stories in  what sounds simply like him speaking (as promised in the introduction by William C. Cline). He tells tales from sets, his home life, of other stars, of friendships, transitioning to sound, secrets of the silents, how he continued to work around films, Navy life, family life, other work, and more.

Ultimately, this book, published when he was 74, reinforced that warm and fuzzy feeling that I got reading about how fond he was of his most famous work. Not that he sugarcoats things, or doesn’t relate some sadness, but none of it was a horror story and lamenting the Hollywood system.

Now, while Junior did know Jackie Cooper and Mickey Rooney, in young actor terms he was a generation older so maybe not being pre-pubescent during the Depression and not in a big studio helped, but he still made it OK and recognizes it. Like Ingrid Bergman whom I just wrote, about he freelanced after a five-year deal and in the studio era that’s unusual.

Junior Coghlan (BFI)

There is much to like here, and much to learn, as with any autobiography, or work on film, you won’t agree with 100% of the opinions espoused but it is an interesting, fact-filled journey with a handy, lengthy filmography that should help you track down titles.

It’s very enjoyable overall and worth looking for if interested.

201-Ingrid-Bergman-in-Arch-Of-Triumph-1948

Ingrid Bergman Blogathon – A Tale of Two Bergmans: Autumn Sonata (1978)

Introduction

This is my, sadly late, contribution to the Ingrid Bergman Blogathon hosted by The Wonderful World of Cinema.

When I saw this announced I knew there was only one selection I could really make. Granted my recent Blogathon contributions about Images by Ingmar Bergman, and Interviews: Liv Ullmann, combined with my recent acquisition of the Autumn Sonata Criterion edition made it a natural choice.

However, this is a film I loved since I first saw it, and one of the rare Bergman films I saw in the theatre first. This was thanks to a retrospective the Film Forum had a while back.

So with the new Blu, the supplements, and all the other sources I could cull from, it really did open up a world of new insights into the making of this wonderful, heart-wrenching film.

Images: My Life in Film by Ingmar Bergman

Images: My Life in Film (1995, All Rights Reserved)

As I stated previously, Bergman’s book Images is perhaps a better source for his notions of his work as he had the benefit of hindsight and didn’t have as close an emotional attachment to the material, and whatever emotional scars production may have left faded over time.

It’s always fascinating to get into the creative process. Bergman shares much of his for this film. He states “Ingrid Bergman and Liv Ullmann were necessary for Autumn Sonata.” As the idea was born first that he wanted to work with Ingrid, then as this idea occurred to him it seemed it was the perfect vehicle. And it was.

Much as Stephen King describes the construction of The Langoliers, Bergman speaks of how easily the story seemed to flow from him: “Autumn Sonata was conceived in one night, in a matter of hours, after a period of total writer’s block.”

Autumn Sonata (1978, All Rights Reserved)

It came about in manner not dissimilar to Robert Rodriguez’ theory about obfuscating what film is in fact a director’s second. With regards to Autumn Sonata Bergman stated:

I wanted to have something up my sleeve in case The Serpent’s Egg flopped with a somersault.

The title of the film makes sense as per the dictionary definition of sonata:

noun, Music.

a composition for one or two instruments, typically in three or four movements in contrasted forms and keys.

Bergman similarly wanted to limit the number of characters in the drama:

“Ingrid Bergman and Liv Ullmann in the two roles, and no one else. Eventually there may be room for a third character.”

In terms of major speaking roles he succeeded in this aim. In production many of the alluded to flashbacks do occur giving bodies, if not voices to those characters.

Bergman speaks of how he feels ultimately the film was a failure due to the fact that “A French critic cleverly wrote that ‘with Autumn Sonata Bergman does Bergman.’ It is witty but unfortunate. For me, that is.” He felt this was accurate going on to further state that:

“I also feel that Tarkovsky started to make Tarkovsky films and Fellini began to make Fellini films. Yet Kurosawa never made a Kurosawa film.”

“Has Bergman begun to make Bergman films? I find that Autumn Sonata is an annoying example.”

“Had I had the strength to do what I intended at the beginning, it would not have turned out that way.”

Autumn Sonata (1978, All Rights Reserved)

On the results Bergman states the following:

“It is impossible to discern how a film evolved and why it ended up as it did.”

“Why did I choose this story, and why was it so complete? It was more finished in the outline than the execution.”

“The daughter finally gives birth to the mother. Through this reversal they unite for a few brief moments in perfect symbiosis.”

“The idea that Helena gives birth to her mother is a difficult one to convey and one which, I’m sad to say, I abandoned.”

In that quartet of statements we see the struggle of creation. It is a bit of a wonder that Bergman simultaneously complains of the film being too Bergman but complains of this inability to create a symbiosis of character in this film. A symbiosis which would undoubtedly cause instant comparison to Persona.

In one way it reminds me on the latter chapters of Hitchcock’s Notebooks where later in his career Hitch seemed to be getting overwrought and unable to clearly to convey to his leads who the characters were. Here the result is clearly one of superior quality, and one of the Best in Bergman’s career in my estimation, but the statement does represent a kind of disconnect. Had he attempted and succeeded in having the daughter birth the mother it would’ve been even more Bergman than the French critic initially cited, yet somehow more successful. Certainly it points to that uncertainty in his feeling that it had failed for unknown reasons.

Autumn Sonata (1978, All Rights Reserved)

Ingmar made it clear he felt he hung Liv out to try in order to better manage Ingrid. I don’t necessarily agree with these statements but here were his impressions:

“I was difficult to work with these two actresses together. When I look at the film today, I see that I left Liv to shift for herself when I ought to have been more supportive.”

“In a few scenes she sometimes goes astray”

What made Ingmar need to dedicate so much additional attention to Ingrid. His own words on the matter are as follows:

“The idea was rekindled when “at the screening of Cries and Whispers she had snuck a note in my pocket which she reminded me of my promise that we would work together.” One of the things they first discussed was bringing “Hjalmar Bergman’s novel The Boss, Mrs. Ingeborg to film.”

The ideal to Bergman: “Three acts in three kinds of lighting: One evening light, one night light, and one morning light. No cumbersome sets, two farces, and three kinds of lighting.

“Therein lies an emotion that I was not able to realize and carry through to its conclusion.” “That is an unerring symptom of creative exhaustion, exceedingly dangerous because it doesn’t hurt.”

Autumn Sonata developed as it did and Ingmar said of Ingrid: “I did not have what one would call difficulties in my working relationship with Ingrid Bergman” but a “kind of a language barrier, but in a profound sense.” Meaning that after the table read, and through the first few days of production he “Discovered that she had rehearsed her entire part in front of the mirror, complete with intonations and self-conscious gestures.” The language barrier comment makes more sense as you continue to read “It was clear that she had a different approach to her profession han the rest of us. She was still living in the 1940s” and had “Different approach due to generational acting style preference.” While it didn’t click with Bergman he didn’t discount it entirely calling it an “inspired system of working, albeit a strange one.”

Autumn Sonata (1978, All Rights Reserved)

Late in the writing he pondered her prior working habits. “She still must have been somehow receptive to suggestions from two or three of her former directors.” “In Hitchcock’s films, for instance, she is always magnificent. She detested the man.” Of Hitchcock Bergman said:

“I believe that with her he never hesitated to be disrespectful and arrogant, which evidently was precisely the best method to make her listen.”

This lead to Bergman feeling that he “was forced to use tactics I normally rejected, the first and foremost being aggression.”

Later in interviews shed some light on the on-set relationship saying Ingmar confronted Ingrid. When he showed her dailies at her request. She was in agreement about her dated, inaccurate approach to the film, she asked for and got reshoots and things were somewhat better from there. However, considering all these facts Ingrid saying “‘If you don’t tell me how you want me to do in this scene, I’ll slap you!’” makes more sense. He wanted to work with actors to interpret text interestingly not dictate. It is a funny and insightful line because most directors at some point wish they could hear that exact thing rather than being fearful of stepping on toes.

Autumn Sonata (1978)

Still he said that Ingrid was ultimately “generous, grand, and highly talented.” And was made aware that she was fighting cancer after their first on-set heart-to-heart where they reached a somewhat better understanding of one another.

It is really interesting that this collaboration occurred. However, based on her track record of seeking Hollywood on her own terms, contacting Rossellini and wanting to work with him, and then dropping Bergman a note; it seems she liked a challenge and to be a bit uncomfortable, as each of these stages of her career brought her much different environments and working conditions than she was heretofore used to.

The fact of the matter is that Brando and Dean brought actors to the fore anew as creators. This was after Ingrid made a name for herself, and while she challenged herself with new directors she did not evolve but rather refined her own method, so it’s natural that there was some friction.

Autumn Sonata by Ingmar Bergman

Autumn Sonata

After having prepared the aforementioned notes the next thing I wanted to do was to read the screenplay anew. This would mark a third reading for me. All from a photocopy I ran off of a paperback I happened to find.

The script runs for a total of 21 scenes on 83 pages. The first is labeled as a Prologue. The added characters which are embodied and speaking are Viktor (Erland Josephson), a parson, representative of his father, based on his biography and other films and Helena (Lena Nyman).

Some of the themes touched upon are rather familiar such as the cultural references, the existential themes, a dead child, the topic of abortion; discussions of childishness and the nature of adulthood, travel, culinarian are a bit unique to the proceedings but not unlike how Bergman handles subjects. It’s also further interesting in hindsight to note that struggling with adulthood is not just for Millennials, and it never has been.

Autumn Sonata (1978, All Rights Reserved)

As for Bergman doing Bergman, it occurred to me while reading that many of his motifs are there but in many ways better than they were ever realized. In some ways its reminiscent on my thoughts on Madonna’s MDNA album, which were that it reminded me of everything she ever did but was wholly new.

As opposed to Ibsen’s Ghosts who were the central characters, the ghosts here a literal literary ones and are characters mentioned in passing or musicians. Examples include, but are not limited to; Agnes, Leonardo, Paul, Schneiderhahn, Starker, Janos, Nurse, Master Harold, Samuel Parkenhurst, Varvisio, Chopin, Adam Kretzinsky, Maria van Eyck, Father, Schmeiss, Stefan, Grandmother, Grandpa, Paul.

Some dialogue changes are lamentable, like the wonderful image of “Cloudberries on the Bog” being lost but ultimately Bergman was the end arbiter of his script on film, and likely the closest thing to a cinematic playwright as we ever so. Therefore, I typically trust his judgment.

Autumn Sonata (1978, All Rights Reserved)

The script is a testament to how the visual dictates the focus of the narrative, simply by its omission in the text most of the time. You are given the images you need in the end product. Furthermore, the reveal of one of the characters (Helena) being present is itself a plot point underscoring that the script is character driven as characters literally are the plot.

It’s a document that allows the actors to play subtextually, and is even contains metatextual moments with Viktor describing his wife to the audience. Furthermore, it allows characters soliloquies a technique usually reserved for the stage.

Eva’s soliloquy on Erik’s drowning. She then speaks of him as a near- literal ghost, talked about intriguingly as present. This allows her to transition to religion. Bergman was always described as one seeking to creat a map of the soul, and going into this realm and everywhere in between is why. It’s also interesting that in this story there is more faith found in Eva than in the parson.

Autumn Sonata (1978, All Rights Reserved)

It paints Charlotte as a woman who relates all things to music because reality is hard, and getting outside her own head and life is even harder. She has spent years seeking the secrets of the preludes, but those of life elude her and do not demand nearly as much of her attention. She practices an art of interpreting others as a means to express oneself. But her dedication to, and ability to mother has always been suspect at best.

There are passive-aggressive moments and the heights and depths of volume with persistent intensity. All indicated through the dialogue and rarely with parenthetical directions,

In technical terms the first lengthy parenthetical action/discription on Page 43. Now based on what I’ve seen Bergman’s scripts are a bit unorthodox anyway, especially as compared to standard Hollywood formatting. Sometimes you’ll see scripts dumbed down to an easier to read interface similar to stage plays. There usually is no indication of the visuals or the blocking. Bergman knew these things but divulged them when the time came. The screenplay is and has been an ever-evolving blueprint for a film and Bergman had his own way of fashioning his.

Autumn Sonata (1978, All Rights Reserved)

The ending of the script is insistent and offers a glimmer of hope. However, clearly can be no facile reconciliation. Nor may there be one at all. All endings besides the one offered would be false. It is a tale wherein mother and daughter have become estranged and the daughter still holds on the adolescent tendency to blame one’s parents for all their faults, and a mother who shares a certain burden of guilt never having felt entirely at ease in her role at home.

Autumn Sonata (1978)

Autumn Sonata (1978, All Rights Reserved)

As mentioned above the cast members in flashback nor some of the visuals are mentioned in the script. Most notably a photo of Erik, a photo of Leonardo Charlotte delivers a soliloquy to, and a scene where slides are being projected.

Bergman/Nyqvist’s affinity for using mirrors and reflections also shows up in the end product; as well as the emphasis on having the camera on the person listening at times for an extended period, of having both framed is brilliant, and allows Ingrid Bergman to shine and carry the film every bit as much when she’s listening as she does when speaking.

Clearly the indication of the emotions that will be conveyed by the disparate playing of the sonatas can’t really come across in the script, and Bergman did fake it very well indeed, as she claimed she could. Both list to one another play captivatingly.

Autumn Sonata (1978, All Rights Reserved)

This is as good a time as any to mention that there is a brilliant three-and-a-half hour documentary on the making of the film. While watching the process is fascinating there is only so much that can be gleaned, a bit of it will be indicated later. But some changes are never examined like the fact that Ingrid rehearsed phone calls to her agent in Swedish and then in the film they were in English. It was a great touch but that was one change I was looking forward to seeing happen.

In visual terms, the success of Autumn Sonata at the end truly hinges in Ingrid Bergman’s expression as Charlotte is seen reacting to Eva’s letter. The pain is clear, and if there is any reconciliation even possible is left nebulous at best.

Ingrid Bergman Interview at NFT

Ingrid Bergman (2015, Criterion)

In a revealing interview at the National Film Theatre in London Ingrid sat down to discuss her career, and her at that time most recent film, Autumn Sonata. She touched on her desire to change, as evidenced by the phases of her career. The fact that she was independent was something that contrarian, and likely contributed to her gaining fans and losing them when she was turned on during the height of the Red Scare, and she stayed off the American screen until she made Anastasia.

This maverick streak was there from the start as she played under only one contract during her whole career, a four-year one with David O. Selznick following the success of Intermezzo. She was always a freelancer after that, which made her shift to working in the Italian cinema with Rossellini easier to accomplish logistically.

Bergman’s involvement with Rossellini professionally and personally made him possessive and she was not allowed to work with anyone else when they were together until Jean Renoir spoke to him. Owing to Rosselini’s respect for Renoir he allowed the two to collaborate.

Autumn Sonata (1978, All Rights Reserved)

When speaking of Bergman she talked of how they got to know one another, and how he joked that they were “brother and sister.” She spoke of her determination to work with him that it was “written in fire over my forehead.” Considering she wrote Rossellini out of the blue it was sure to happen even though it was a project that faced many delays.

As an actress who had worked in German, English, French, and Italian in the years since her last Swedish film (in her homeland) she stated it wasn’t hard to get back into and it was a “great relief after so many years. I can’t believe it was so easy to learn the dialogue.”

As an actress who learned English to play her first American role, it should surprise no one that she had piano instruction again for the first time since she was 13 to be able to convincingly fake her piano playing for Autumn Sonata.

Autumn Sonata (1978, All Rights Reserved)

With regards to the film she felt quite a bit of connection. Saying that a lot of it was her life, leaving her home and her children, be it for work or relationships dissolving. “That just makes me very sad because I’ve done it many times,” she stated.

She also admitted to arguing with Ingmar over certain points but didn’t frame these stories with bias. She thought certain lines and facts of the story were hard to swallow, complaining that the time Charlotte and Eva spent apart was “inhuman.” Bergman usually won out stating “We’re not telling your story it’s Charlotte’s.”

Interview with Bergman

Bergman Island (2004, Sveriges Television)

This feature includes the full (and I believe unedited) interview footage with Bergman on Farö Island which was filmed for the documentary Bergman Island.

Here Bergman again related much of the story, with no major details changing, just more information. Much of which Ullmann corroborates at a later date.

Bergman discusses having a fear headache based on the performance he believed he was getting. He was finding he couldn’t direct her. When they sat and talked he found out about Ingrid’s cancer, she took the notes well and professionally, and in hoping to merely reach a sort of compromise he saw she agreed and came around.

He felt at that point her sensitivities opened up to the truer nature of the character. My feeling is her defensiveness my have been built up due in part to her health issues, a hiatus from work, and dealing with a new director with a different vision. Maybe the tendency to lean on old habits proved too strong. Thankfully for her, Ingmar, and the film she came through it.

Interview with Liv Ullmann

Liv Ullmann (2015, Criterion)

Having recently read a book of her interviews I was wondering what Liv could offer her. Being a newer interview, and after the deaths of both Ingmar and Ingrid added an emotional tenor to the matter but also some new information.

The first aspect of which was that she really was in on the ground floor. As parents together, former lover, and now collaborator, Ullmann knew this project existed before Bergman realized this was the perfect vehicle for Ingrid. The realization that it had to be her came a bit later.

Ullmann, as could be expected, gives great insight into the script and characters by her and Ingrid; two fiercely independent women. They both identified with playing women who needed to give of her own creativity, and could relate to the fact that society would tell them they could not do so. While I understand their quibbles with how audiences may interpret these characters, I believe that not every character is not a referendum on a gender or a race or group.

Autumn Sonata (1978, All Rights Reserved)

She learned in this film how vulnerable emotionally a director who writes is, and she didn’t really appreciate it then. Ingmar was unused to this questioning, and was one to not allow changes in wording. She doesn’t feel Ingmar and Ingrid ever real communication that they creating from themselves.

In Ingmar’s defense Liv does state she doesn’t like too many questions being asked, nor the director telling her too much. Her ability to create on her own, and play against dialogue allowed her the freedom to make Autumn Sonata work as well as it does.

Ullmann related how Bergman had a tradition of screening a film of his choosing for all cast and crew on Wednesday night. One day Ingrid had had enough, and was tired and left five minutes in. It was something that wasn’t done. Liv envied that but would never dream of doing so herself.

Autumn Sonata (1978, All Rights Reserved)

Liv credited Ingrid for in the end she never actually said no. She questioned things but eventually did do as she was asked. Perhaps the prime example of that is the fact that Ingrid wanted to slap Eva for what she was saying to her mother and it caused a big fight on set. Eventually she performed the scene as scripted. Liv was astounded at the results that through her choked back tears and rage she expressed “the anger of every woman who was forced to apologize” for choosing to create and have a family. The subtextual truth comes out.

What I came away with from the interview is that subtext wins over time, and the commentary is made without dialogue but through these actions and interactions.

Conclusion: The Booklet

Autumn Sonata (2015, Criterion Collection)

The Criterion Collection’s final nugget of wisdom on this film is the booklet (and bless them for still making them) is Farran Smith Nehme’s insightful essay on the film.

She rightly underscores that not only does the film scratch something off Ingrid’s proverbial bucket list, but it’s also Bergman’s final film created expressly for cinema. All his films afterward usually debuted on TV and then went to cinemas in either edited or unedited forms.

While its “built on exposition” and not metaphysical it still is Bergman with its touches and I think it’s an essay that helps frame the brilliance and surreal nature of having Ingrid Bergman in an Ingmar Bergman film one that feels not only intensely personal to those involved. Whether or not these fine actresses were allowed to say what they wanted to say about their own lives they expressed truths that could connect to all on either side of the parent-child relationship. As flawed, improbable, monstrous or sympathetic you find these figures they are written and played by wonderous artists that allow you to identify with them regardless of the facts of their case. It’s compelling to watch, and one thing Bergman was inarguably right about is that it had to be Liv and Ingrid. No question about it.

Night Across the Street (2012, Cinema Guild)

Mini-Review: Night Across the Street

Introduction

This is a post that is a repurposing of an old-school Mini-Review Round-Up post. As stated here I am essentially done with running multi-film review posts. Each film deserves its own review. Therefore I will repost, and at times add to, old reviews periodically. Enjoy!

Night Across the Street

It can be most difficult to assign a numerical value to a film told in magical realism, which means you can pay less heed to the number assigned and more heed to what is said about the film. The reason it becomes difficult is that there are two interpretations you’re trying to quantify: your intellectual interpretation and your visceral one. These two interpretations of a film with more literal forms of cinema are virtually intertwined. With magical realism, or any other subgenre that ventures outside the norms or representative realities, it’s harder to gauge.

One can definitely take a symbolist approach to this film and try to devise a schema wherein the entirety of this film encapsulated in a dream, a hallucination or fancy. However, what bears noting is that this is the kind of film wherein there will be varying interpretations of plot points, symbols, uses of color, place, abuse of time, and all will be right, wrong, and somewhere in between. The truth of the film and its meaning lies in the thematic basics of it, which is mainly that an old man on the brink of death is reflecting on his life and everything is coming back to him all at once, and is always there, and always will be.

That may sound cryptic but this is a film where, if you watch closely enough, you may even begin to doubt when certain events, like his impending death happened, or if they happened.

I cannot say it’s magical realism at its most accessible. It’s definitely one recommended for those with at least some grounding in it, as it is intentionally dizzying. However, for the most part the calculations in Ruiz’s final film add up. This film lends itself to re-viewing and analysis, and refuses to leave you disengaged and inactive, and will prompt debate, which are all great things for a film to do. It doesn’t do them impeccably, but it does them with a lot of style, great cinematography, effects, and a unique editing language that I picked up on as it went along.

8/10

Arcadia (2012, Film Movement)

Mini-Review: Arcadia

Introduction

This is a post that is a repurposing of an old-school Mini-Review Round-Up post. As stated here I am essentially done with running multi-film review posts. Each film deserves its own review. Therefore I will repost, and at times add to, old reviews periodically. Enjoy!

Arcadia

One of the greatest tools at a filmmaker’s disposal is their ability to manipulate time. I recall in one of my screenwriting courses we were asked how long, hypothetically, it would take in movie time to dispose of a murder victim. Answers varied. We were then shown what I believe was a 15 minute sequence in Blood Simple wherein a murder victim was stowed, transported and buried. There is no correct answer to the hypothetical question, what determines the answer is how intrinsic said activity is to the plot and the film as a whole.

This brings me to Arcadia which tells the tale of a father and moving with his children cross-country by car. There are a few things that are purposely nebulous throughout (what this job is, why their mother isn’t with them, what the nature of their temporary separation is) but the film get stretched out past its simple parameters with cutaways and b-roll to accentuate the passage of time a bit too effectively.

This film is a very good character study, that could plumb deeper depths sooner if it so chose too. It features standout performances by John Wilkes, who since Winter’s Bone has been cornering the market on meaty character work for male characters of his age and type; Ryan Simpkins who in smaller films, and of less frequency than she merits, is finding challenging roles and rising to the occasion as stoically, if not more so, than Chloe Moretz; and her brother Ty Simpkins, in an example of casting real life siblings working brilliantly, he frequently steals scenes both of comedic and dramatic nature. Yet, these performances, and the plot they operate within, don’t have the impact they could in the end because of the drag of time this film consciously implements. Verisimilitude can be a great thing, and emotionally the ebb and flow makes sense, however, a quicker, more violent storm likely would’ve made as much sense, and carried significantly more weight.

What will stay with me from this film is the outstanding, dynamic performances of the Simpkins siblings, and how I wish the overall experience was as electric as their work in it.

5/10

NOTE: Ty and Ryan Simpkins were the first brother and sister nominated for BAM Awards in the same film!

Philomena (2013, The Weinstein Company)

Mini-Review: Philomena

Introduction

This is a post that is a repurposing of an old-school Mini-Review Round-Up post. As stated here I am essentially done with running multi-film review posts. Each film deserves its own review. Therefore I will repost, and at times add to, old reviews periodically. Enjoy!

Philomena

This film came as a great surprise and, once again, is a case of knowing very little about it going in. Based on the commercials you knew the basic premise: an elderly woman seeks to discover the fate of the child she put up for adoption 50 years prior. It plays it up like it’s going to be all giggles and a heartwarming “human interest story” as Steve Coogan’s character would’ve derisively put it at the beginning of the film. But much like that journalist we are treated to, yes, some laughs, quite a few surprises (both good an bad), and some tears. The film has some touches to it like its montages of home video that foreshadow the child’s life being learned about and the weaving through time Philomena’s memory occasionally does. Judi Dench is positively marvelous, as is Steve Coogan who plays against type and wore many hats to help make this film happen.

9/10

Extracted (2012, New Artists Alliance)

Mini-Review: Extracted

Introduction

This is a post that is a repurposing of an old-school Mini-Review Round-Up post. As stated here I am essentially done with running multi-film review posts. Each film deserves its own review. Therefore I will repost, and at times add to, old reviews periodically. Enjoy!

Extracted

This is a film with a lot of good ideas aside from just the basic premise of being able to access people’s memories. The issues are mainly that all the kinks aren’t ironed out yet and the film’s reach exceeds its grasp in terms of production value. I staunchly avoid discussing budget most of the time. Budget does not dictate quality, unless you’re doing something outside the reality of your allowance. This film falls into that realm on occasion but it is clever and resourceful enough most of the time to avoid those issues, it’s really the finer points being corrected that would’ve brought it up some. It’s an entertaining enough watch, but doesn’t follow through on its promise.

5/10

Europa Report (2013, Magnet Releasing)

Mini-Review: Europa Report

Introduction

This is a post that is a repurposing of an old-school Mini-Review Round-Up post. As stated here I am essentially done with running multi-film review posts. Each film deserves its own review. Therefore I will repost, and at times add to, old reviews periodically. Enjoy!

Europa Report

Found footage as a technique is one that has been talked about ad nauseum, by myself included. Usually, it is the shortcomings that make us take more notice. However, we should not turn a blind eye to those films that do implement the technique well. This is one of those films. This is a film that has minimalist chills and scares that isn’t the slickest space-bound story this year, but has its strong points, moments of terror, moments of character, and a very good ensemble at its disposal. It also takes a sci-fi tale just slightly beyond the current limits of science, but not that far into the distant future.

8/10