Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Ingmar Bergman 1918-2007; Michelangelo Antonioni 1912-2007

What are the chances? Bergman one day, Antonioni the next. It's really over, the 20th-century, modernism, all that.

I thought of Antonioni, yesterday, as a point of comparison as I mused on what I might say about Bergman's incomparable films.

About Bergman, it's this: in both the b&w and the color films, I do not think that anyone has succeeded in giving light itself so many variable and ambiguous meanings, such substance. That eternal twilight of the idols, beyond good and evil, on his personal island, etc. . . I cannot but feel impatient, after Bergman, with a film that returns to the Manichean symbolism of neo-noir chiaroscuro. Although it seems perverse to focus solely on the visual with a filmmaker who is so novelistic, so theatrical and psychologically sharp, as in Fanny and Alexander or the Passion of Anna or Persona or Through a Glass Darkly, for instance--still, it's mostly light I'll remember. Everything seems great now, in retrospect, even the early allegorical films.

And Antonioni? No-one, I think, has better fit the dream of Malevich and Picasso and Mondrian to the space of the screen-projection, the dream of abstraction. That qualities might float from free from all substance, migrating somewhere else, somewhere better. That you could refound the world on a color, a shape, a sound, an itch. At the end of The Passenger, that anxious and yet solemn circling of the camera in the dust, so much more of a person than most of us ever get to be. Something sat down in the middle of the bourgeois world--an organ of non-communication, some call it spectacle-- and Antonioni took its picture.

But Antonioni lives on in Taiwan and Hong Kong and China, in the films of Hou-Hsou Hsien and Tsai Ming-liang and Wong-Kar Wai, Antonioni does. Where Bergman is I don't really know.

All the people I mention in this post who are not fictional are men. That's another part of it.

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