Two years ago today death came for Ingmar Bergman and Michelangelo Antonioni. Robert here, thinking back on the day when my two favorite living directors both died. Two men who had a huge impression on me. It was as a young budding movie lover that Bergman and Antonioni taught me how film could be more than popcorn entertainment... it could be art.
Of course one has to admit that Bergman and Antonioni are eternally entwined with the bad name that "art film" sometimes has... and for pretty good reason. After all, Ingmar Bergman directed an entire trilogy on God's silence. Antonioni directed an entire trilogy about the impossibility of love. What do you mean people think art films are needlessly depressing?
And so the reputation of the art film goes: If you want a good time... watch something else.
Still Bergman and Antonioni never really deserved that reputation. The Seventh Seal has always been more fun than people give it credit for (Andrew O'Hehir posted a nice article about it a little while back). And while Antonioni might fill your head with existential longing, he'll throw in a groundbreaking threesome scene to fill your eyes with too.
The films of Bergman and Antonioni aren't bowls full of laughs but these masters had such a good hold on the medium that I dare any cinema lover to watch them and not feel moments of pure joy. How can you not gasp in amazement when silent actress Liv Ullmann is tricked into stepping on a shard of glass and finally makes a sound in Persona? How can you not be seduced by Monica Vitti slowly putting on a stocking in Red Desert? Are there many shots in cinema as entrancing as the final shot in The Passenger? Are there many moments as joyous as the rescue scene in Fanny and Alexander?
These two men already sit among the giants of cinema history. They don't need me to defend them. But too often they're relegated to just that: history. As with many who directed the "classics" they live inside university and library walls and not beyond. Mark Twain said a classic book is one which everyone wants to have read but no one wants to read. Replace "read" with "watch" and the same rule applies to the movies.
So today, three years later, do yourself a favor... watch some Bergman. Watch some Antonioni. Go ahead. You might even find yourself having a good time.