Monday, December 15, 2008

cries and whispers

"Sheer discomfort may play an unacknowledged role in recent resistance to the celebration of Ingmar Bergman as a great director. For the cosmopolitan, often cynical breed of critics and cinephiles, Bergman, who died last year, was too earnest, too death-obsessed, too literal-minded about the scaffolding of visual art - symbols, dream imagery, stark photographic schemes. Yet here, as a rebuke, is CRIES AND WHISPERS, from 1972, a radical masterpiece of an almost punitive intensity. A wealthy, religious spinster is dying of cancer in a formal nineteenth-century manor house, attended, in her final agonies, by her two worldly sisters - a tense, enraged, masochistic diplomat and a ripely sensual adulteress - as well as by a peasant maid who bares her flesh to comfort the dying woman, whom she loves. The movie, enclosed in tight spaces and colored in deep red, seems to take place in the veins and arteries of a long, painful dream. The women's skin is tactile, the camera erotic in its intimacy."

by David Denby
The New Yorker, December 15, 2008

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