LIFE TENDS TO COME AND GO, BUT THAT'S OKAY AS LONG AS YOU KNOW
So, apparently Ingmar Bergman worked for nine years with little success, making films that got some decent critical reaction in Sweden but did poor box office and never found a home in foreign markets. His studio told him it was do-or-die time, so in 1955, he made Smiles of a Summer Night. While he had dabbled in comedies about romance and societal entanglements previously, Smiles was where he got it right, and it not only became a huge success in Sweden, but wowed them at Cannes and traveled the world. And it's deserved. It's a smart period piece that inspires laughs through behavior rather than quick one liners (though, there are some of those). The characters are endearing, even when they aren't entirely likeable. And the comedy often laughs in the face of danger, teases of the bleakness that Bergman is more routinely known for.
People have expressed a lot of sentiments to me lately, regarding the alleged bravery of my striking out to write. Several have noted their own desire to do the same, but not sure if they can or should. I know of at least one person older than me lamenting that his film career has yet to zoom forth. And all I can think is it took one of the most renowned filmmakers of all time nine years to finally strike gold, so is a year or two more than expected really so long? I also recall being a young editor at Dark Horse, annoyed that Paul Pope was already producing amazing work at a tender young age, and Bob Schreck wisely said not to worry about it, we all work at our own pace.
And it's true. Sometimes you just have to wait until the stars align. The real challenge is to make sure you actually recognize that they have when they do. That's what ultimately separates the art from the pose.
I am crawling my way through my Criterions, watching the discs I have yet to watch. I am alternating. Every other film I view is from the collection, and I am working in order--only jumping the line to watch the new ones. (And, of course, I am skipping what I have already watched.) All told, over the time I've been collecting, I've watched more than half of the 240 or so, and this past Sunday hit #50 of my upward climb--Fellini's And the Ship Sails On.
If Smiles of a Summer Night is a testament to the drive of an artist just finding his way, then And the Ship Sails On is representative of the artist who has stayed the course and remained interesting well into his later life. Made in 1984, And the Ship Sails On is a whirlwind of creativity. Beginning as a black-and-white silent film and fading into gorgeous color, this story of a cruise ship full of opera singers on their way to scatter the ashes of a fallen comrade is visually dazzling. Its narrative is like the ocean itself, rolling on in constant movement, yet always changing in ways we may not expect. European princes, war-torn refugees, and a sick rhino all share the same deck with the singers, and Fellini finds great delight in their unpredictable reactions to one another, exposing human foibles nd the fragile divisions of class. He also takes great care to create an exciting film to look at, one that adopts the artifice of a staged opera to the medium of moving pictures. That's not real water they float on, but undulating, glittering fabric. It comes as no surprise, then, when ultimately the camera pulls back and reveals the Fellini himself behind it.
One of the more remarkable films I have seen in a while.
Current Soundtrack: The Cure, Bloodflowers; Jonathan Fire*Eater, Tremble Under Boom Lights