Discovering good movies, one bad movie at a time

Part of the appeal of animation is that it can depict anything that can be imagined outside of the bounds of physical reality, but in practice there tend to be limits on just how creative any given film can be: the hard limits of labor and money mean that, in general, the boldest, most radical […]

Calling 1969’s The Passion of Anna by that name is already doing too much work in tidying up a film that’s almost perversely happy at how messy it is. Certainly, it is the messiest film directed by Ingmar Bergman, a director much more driven to crisp, clean, focused (to some of his critics, focused to […]

I am quite sure that I would never have supposed that a filmmaker working in the 1960s would leap to television because of the freedoms it offered. And I have no idea if that’s what actually took place with The Rite, director Ingmar Bergman’s sixth made-for-TV movie, and the first that wasn’t a staging of […]

1968’s Hour of the Wolf has perhaps the single least-enviable position of any title in Ingmar Bergman’s filmography: it’s the feature film he made next after Persona. Anything would seem like a step down in ambition and visionary madness compared to that movie, though Hour of the Wolf makes a good-faith effort to stand out […]

The Silence is a film of negation. The first words spoken –  the first of not very many, at that – are a declaration of ignorance and meaninglessness. A boy of ten or eleven, Johan (Jörgen Lindström) points to a sign written in an unfamiliar language, asking, “Vad betyder det?” (What does that mean?). Off-camera […]

When I think upon Ingmar Bergman’s cinema, and what most perfectly embodies it, why he is one of my very favorite filmmakers of all time and what are the irreducible components of his style, what I always think of first is Winter Light from 1963. Specifically, I think of the shot of Ingrid Thulin’s face. […]

The quintessential Ingmar Bergman films, to me – the once that most sum up all of his strengths as a film director, his preoccupations as a writer, and his function in the ecosystem of art cinema – are a set of three movies he made in the early 1960s, right when his international visibility was […]

It will always be a little asterisk on the career of director Ingmar Bergman that the film for which he always has been and likely always will be best-known, 1957’s The Seventh Seal, is among the least-characteristic films he ever made. This is, in and of itself, neither good nor bad, nor anything (though it […]

1955’s Smiles of a Summer Night is a no-two-ways-about-it masterpiece, as far as I’m concerned, but it’s also a light bauble: tinged with melancholy and hard-won worldy wisdom, but still mostly a sex farce. 1957’s The Seventh Seal is similarly a no-two-ways-about-it masterpiece, but it’s also a strange pageant-like work of dense symbolism, unafraid to […]

I literally cannot imagine a world where The Seventh Seal didn’t exist. It is, without a trace of hyperbole, one of the works that defines its medium. That there is a thing called “the art film”; that we can, without embarrassment, treat cinema as something that serious intellectuals can and should grapple with; that there […]

Between 1962 and 1986, Andrei Tarkovsky directed a mere seven feature films, and every single one of them was greeted as a major work. But 1983’s Nostalghia, the sixth of those seven features and the firs made outside of the Soviet Union (it was shot in Italy, mostly in Tuscany), was regarded as being perhaps […]