Wednesday, August 08, 2007


Here's an editorial Jonathan Rosenbaum in the New York Times that questions Bergman's relevance as a filmmaker.

"Scenes From An Overrated Career

Apparently Rosenbaum feels that Bergman's popularity is due to his films' theatrical accessibility and that his long-term relevance in circles of film criticism is likely to fade due to his lack of formal cinematic innovation.

I like Rosenbaum, but I think he's totally off the mark here. He seems to be increasingly taking the Armond White post-modern cineaste approach of championing revisionist auteurs while bashing the established greats.

Rosenbaum seems to be in such a rush to be the first naysayer before the coffin lid closes that he's deluded himself into believing that the power of Bergman's work lies solely in it's theatrical elements (Strindbergian themes, dramatic acting, set design, etc.). This is a pretty naive statement on Rosenbaum's part, and he even contradicts himself in his final paragraph, mentioning Bergman's "extended takes".

While Bergman was a great theater director and obviously applied the techniques he'd learned on the stage to his films, he was much more of a cinematic formalist than Rosenbaum gives him credit for. His use of extreme close-ups brought a new intensity to exploring the inner turmoil of characters and has been widely appropriated by thousands of directors since. He also was a master of cinematic sound, creating alienating, abstract, hallucinatory auras through the use of silence or foley elements in films such as "Hour of the Wolf", "Persona", "Shame", etc.

While Rosenbaum may win points with the hipoisie for questioning one of the greats, I don't buy it.

**UPDATE** -- Roger Ebert has written a response to Rosenbaum's article. You can read it here.


casey said...

I'll kick that dude's ass!

jay said...

If you do, I get to kick him in ribs after he's down.

I'm really not that surprised by Rosenbaum's article--he seems to find fault with anything that isn't completely esoteric and incomprehensible lately.

jay said...
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