July 31st, 2007

On Reflection

The Guardian gave Bergman a rather grudging obituary. We used to think he was a great director, the guy said. Now we know  the true greats are Ozu, Dreyer,  Bresson, Rosselini and Renoir.

Hmmmm....

Seems like Bergman just isn't obscure enough.

I love Ozu, but he makes the same film over and over again. I haven't seen anything of Dreyer's for ages. Bresson- with his amateur actors, ruthless minimalism and refusal to crack a smile- always seems to me to be teetering on the edge of absurdity. Rosselini I understand to be historically important (Rome, Open City and all that) but he's never grabbed me. Renoir's fine.

But it's absurd to argue over matters of taste. 

Bergman's death has hit me so hard because he was the last of the great film makers who dominated the middle decades of the 20th century. That was when film meant something, when it was still taken seriously. The others in the gang were Bunuel, Antonioni, Fellini, Pasolini, Kurosawa, Ray, the French New Wavers. Tarkovsky came along a little later. They made films that challenged and defined the culture, that created the weather.  OK, most of the French New Wavers are still alive but they no longer make films that matter. Bergman never ceased to matter. 

Maybe this is just an old man's moan, but it seems to me as if cinema itself  is dead.