Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Even in Death, Ingmar Bergman Makes the Rest of Us Look Like a Lot of Punk Kids

Treated myself last night to the restoration of Bergman's "Monika" at the IFC. It apparently hasn't been seen much for the last 50 years, and prints weren't considered very good. I haven't seen a lot of Bergman - about a half dozen of his - what? - 4,000 films? - but the ones I've seen I see over and over. The man could make the Gristede's on 103rd St look like an Old Master painting.

"Monika" concerns two young Swedish kids - Harriet Andersson and Lars Ekborg - who run away from their dreary lives and take up on an abandoned boat. They fall in love, have a lot of sex, and then realize they don't have any food and they're getting kind of dirty living on a boat and summer is over. They move back to town, he studies engineering, she has a baby and life grinds them into dust. She turns into a selfish bitch, and he's stuck at the end living with his dad again and taking care of the kid.

So - what makes this worth watching?

Bergman - God, he was good - can take the simplest story, load it with humanity, fill every frame with life and turn loss into something that makes your heart swell, a piece of music, a naked poem about the true price of growing up. His films have a rap of being depressing, but I find them exhilarating. Even this one - for whatever reason classified as a minor work - has truth, humor, and wonder.

Plus, Andersson is a vision and Ekborg looks for all the world like Chet Baker at his moment of maximum hotness.

My charming date - who'd never seen a Bergman flick before - was into it.

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