Ingmar Bergman, 1918-2007

From today's New York Times, news of the death of filmmaker Ingmar Bergman.

Ingmar Bergman, the ?poet with the camera? who is considered one of the greatest directors in motion picture history, died today on the small island of Faro where he lived on the Baltic coast of Sweden, Astrid Soderbergh Widding, president of The Ingmar Bergman Foundation, said. Bergman was 89.

While he may be best remembered for films such as “The Seventh Seal” and “Wild Strawberries”, my favorite remains “Persona.” This is a more abstract, modernist “psychological” film, focusing on the relationship and interaction of just two characters (played by Liv Ullman and Bibi Andersen). And it contains this amazing opening sequence:

Although “Persona” wasn't even mentioned in the New York Times tribute, it is considered by many, including myself, to be his best.





Worthless Kitty Musings: Brakhage and Bast

I have been viewing on and off a collection of short films by Stan Brakhage. Brakhage was a very prolific and influential maker of short experimental films. Most of his films have little or no narrative, and in many cases are made from images created directly on the film (i.e., not filmed with a camera), as in the case of thethe frame from Resurrectus Est shown to the right. Most of the films are also silent, leaving the viewer to focus exclusively on the images.

One of the films that intruiged me was Cats Cradle, originally done in 1964. Basically, it consists of a series of clips of a black cat interspersed with separate closeups of a man and a woman (apparently there were two couples in the film, but was not able to see this as I was watching). The cuts are frequent and the lighting/tinting is an amazing shade of red/magenta. It really is hard to describe, though you can find a better attempt here. An interesting suggestion is that the film can be seen as the “cat's perspective” on the couple.

The film definitely has a sexual feel to it, though there are no explicitly sexual images (discounting the fact that juxtaposing images of a woman and a man usually adds some sense of sexuality). How does the cat fit into that overall sense? Juvenile word-associations aside, cats have a history of association with (female) sexuality and fertility, most notably through the Egyptian goddess Bast. Bast is definitely a goddess for my personal pantheon, and I've been looking for an excuse to use her in a post on this forum. Bast has quite a resume, as the protector of cats, women and children, also associated with perfume, fertility, love, music and dance. It is interesting to consider Cat's Cradle in the context of Bast, even as a tribute of sorts, although I have no basis to assume Brakhage had such an association in mind. Though looking through his filmography, i think he was fond of cats.