Borderlands (Zev Berman, 2007): 6.5/10

The Magic Flute (Ingmar Bergman, 1975): 7/10

La Guerre Est Finie (Alain Resnais, 1966): 7/10

Speed Racer (The Wachowski Brothers, 2008): 8/10

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Sunday, January 13, 2008

Smiles of a Summer Night (Ingmar Bergman, 1955)

Think all Ingmar Bergman films are depressing looks into humanity? This picture, one of Bergman's first internationally recognized films, is a light-hearted, witty look at the affairs of a group of people in turn of the century Sweden. Lawyer Fredrik Egerman is married to the much-younger Anne, and also has a son, Henrik, who is Anne's age and just finished his studies at the seminary. Desiree Armfeldt is an actress with whom Fredrik had an affair after the death of his first wife, and who he still has feelings for. Her other lover is Count Malcolm, who also has a wife, Charlotte, who's friends with Anne. The Egermans also have a maid, Petra, who is sort of having an affair with Henrik. Whew!

All these characters come together at a weekend get-together put on my Desiree, in order to sort all this romantic confusion out. And it does all get sorted out, rather neatly, but not before a lot of seriously witty banter is exchanged. Seriously, anyone who wants to write sexually tense dialogue needs to watch this movie first. After a 2007 of being disappointed by weakly wrought female characters, this was a definite upgrade, especially Petra. She's a sassy 18-year old maid who flirts with all the Egerman men (she even shows her breasts -- nipple included! -- to Henrik while trying to seduce him), at the same time keeping her dignity. She's not a hussy, she just knows what she wants and tries to get it. The scene of Petra and Anne rolling around on the bed, giggling about how terrible it would be to be a man, is one of the most honest, endearing portraits of female friendship I've seen on film.

Sure, Bergman is one of the best filmmakers of all time because of his searing portraits of individuals and couples, but Smiles of a Summer Night shows his brilliant lighter side as well. Check this out for a laugh-out-loud Bergman experience (I never thought I'd use that phrase ever!).


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