Blog Bergman on the Big Screen

Posted April 23, 2018

By JBFC Senior Programmer Andrew Jupin

Starting May 1st, we’ll be screening an Ingmar Bergman film every Tuesday for the entire month. As crowded as the month of May will be on the JBFC schedule, “Bergman Tuesdays” as I’ve been calling it—the screenings are part of our larger, ongoing focus on repertory cinema, Retro Revival—is the least we could do to celebrate the centenary of one of cinema’s greatest voices.

When it was announced that Janus Films would be coordinating a traveling retrospective of THIRTY-FOUR of Bergman’s films—several on newly struck DCPs—my first thought was, Well I’m obviously going to have to make some tough decisions here. Because there’s absolutely no way a retrospective with almost three dozen titles will work. To compare, I just curated a Paul Schrader retrospective that has seven, that’s right, seven films. Has Paul Schrader written and/or directed more than seven films? Of course! But to include all or most of a director’s filmography into a retrospective puts a lot of pressure on the audience: People want to check out the films in the series, they’re excited about the titles, and then when they realize that there are literally dozens of films to see, it makes the whole thing a little overwhelming. Plus a note for all you budding film curators out there: throwing everything a director ever did into a retrospective doesn’t take much on the curation side either, you’re just checking boxes on a list, not making any curatorial decisions.

So why Bergman? Why not?

First, like I mentioned up top, it’s his centennial this year. There’s a trend in repertory programming where we obsess over celebrating anniversaries of not only directors, but specific films as well—check out the 75th anniversary restoration of Clouzot’s Le Corbeau I’m screening in Retro Revival in July! The medium of film itself is barely over 100 years old, so as time continues to pass, we’re going to see more and more worthwhile candidates for centennial celebrations. Part of it, I think, is it’s a good excuse to create a new DCP (or in some really lucky cases, new 35mm prints) and tour the film around. But another part of it is that it’s really just a good excuse to return to some old classics. Reminiscing about better times at the cinema perhaps? I’m just kidding, there are lots of great films still being made today; go see Sorry to Bother You later this summer.

When it came time to pare down the lineup from 34 to 5, I knew I’d have my work cut out for me. And while I did not strictly select all personal favorites, I am intentionally kicking off the month with my favorite Bergman, Persona (screens 5/1). Having said that, I’m sure there’s a good chance your favorite Bergman title is missing from the list, but remember: There’s always time for more Bergman. I seriously doubt this will be my last time putting Ingmar Bergman films on the JBFC’s screens because he was just that kind of filmmaker. His work isn’t easy, nor is it always kind, but it is beautiful, emotional, and constantly challenging us. It’s everything you want from art house cinema. I’ve seen The Seventh Seal (screens on 5/8) over ten times, but each time there is something new I discover about that film. I’ve also never seen it on a big screen—another reason repeat repertory viewings at an art house are always so important. In fact, the only title on here that I have seen on the big screen is Wild Strawberries (screens 5/15) on a 35mm print so beat up it almost wasn’t worth it. Almost.

The month is rounded out with Through a Glass Darkly (screens on 5/22), the first part of Bergman’s incredibly powerful chamber drama trilogy (two other other parts, Winter Light and The Silence are well worth the watch) and Autumn Sonata (screens on 5/29), his late-career masterpiece that features one of the absolute best on-screen duos you’ll ever see: Ingrid Bergman and Liv Ullmann, who play mother and daughter in this powerhouse of a film.

If you’re unfamiliar with Ingmar’s work, I think Bergman Tuesdays will be a great crash course for you. And if you pick up what he’s putting down, there’s so much more to discover. So many of his films are available either on Blu-ray or streaming on services like FilmStruck.

While I don’t think all filmmakers or actors will (or should) receive massive touring retrospectives of their work in the year of their centennials—although I wouldn’t say no to a Robert Altman tour in 2025 or a Shirley MacLaine tour in 2034—there is no doubt in my mind that Ingmar Bergman was a filmmaker more than deserving of the honor and I’m so pleased to get some of his major works back on the big screen here at the JBFC.

Bergman Tuesdays runs from May 1–29. Read more about the films in the series and purchase tickets here.

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