Re Bergman: Rosenbaum responds to Ebert

From: Jonathan Rosenbaum, Chicago, IL

Critic Jonathan Rosenbaum of the Chicago Reader responds to four points in Roger Ebert's article ("Defending Ingmar Bergman"):

1. The best discussion of Dreyer's use of space is to be found in David Bordwell's book on Dreyer, which I highly recommend. David is Roger's favorite academic critic, and understandably so, given the rigor of his visual analysis, so I hope Roger can check out Bordwell's treatment of Dreyer's use of space, which is quite different from what his article suggests it is. To broach this matter much more briefly, I hope I can be forgiven for quoting from another recent post of mine in "a_film_by":

"Syntactically, Dreyer's editing and his way of combining a track in one direction with a pan in another direction are more than just personal inflections, and the same goes for Bresson's use of inexpressiveness in both performances and shots in order to make the juxtapositions between shots and what might be called the involuntary expressiveness of bodies register in a different way from how we've experienced them before. In both cases, I think what's new isn't just a new 'personal' meaning but a new way of producing meaning--and that for me signifies a change in language."

2. I'm afraid Dreyer didn't have a strict Lutheran upbringing--that's been an old wives' tale ever since Maurice Drouzy's Dreyer biography came out. Dreyer hated his adopted parents, but not for any religious reasons. And I don't know anything about Bresson's religious upbringing; if Roger does, he should speak up. (As for Bresson's religious beliefs, a matter of much speculation, that's also been debated at some length in "a film by" over the past few days.)

3. Bergman's "seeming contempt" for digital video "apart from its usefulness as a simple recording device" in "Saraband" isn't a sin in my book but a plus. That's what I argued when I reviewed the film in the Reader -- at least that's what I tried to argue. What I find objectionable at times in "Saraband," as I say in my article, are some of the emotions being recorded and Bergman's lack of interest in critiquing or distancing himself from them in any way.

4. Moreover, I have absolutely nothing against Bergman having used blond and blue-eyed cast members, nearly all of whom are extremely talented as well as Swedish. My objection is only to the way this use and practice became "a brand to be adopted and emulated"-- by Woody Allen, among others.

Roger Ebert

Roger Ebert was the film critic of the Chicago Sun-Times from 1967 until his death in 2013. In 1975, he won the Pulitzer Prize for distinguished criticism.

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