November 12, 2015

ingrid Greetings again from the darkness. A seven time Oscar nominee and three time winner. One of the best known and most beloved actresses of all-time. Fifty year acting career. Died at age 67, mere weeks after her final performance. These are all bullet points to highlight Ingrid Bergman, the cinematic icon. However, documentarian (and fellow Swede) Stig Bjorkman pays little attention to the icon, and instead focuses on the woman.

What sets this apart from many biographical portraits is Bjorkman’s access to Bergman’s diaries, journals, personal letters, photos, home videos, and most importantly, interviews with her four children: Pia Lindstrom, Roberto Rossellini, and twins Isabella and Ingrid Rossellini. It’s a treasure trove of memories, documentation and insight into a woman who lived life on her own terms … often in direct opposition to what societal norms dictate. The film neither defends nor celebrates her free spirit; it simply reports it and allows us to sit in judgment, should we be so inclined.

One of the best clips is young Ingrid’s screen test where her natural beauty radiates on screen, and her expressive eyes make it obvious why David O Selznick recognized her star quality. But there are numerous other clips and photographs which show her mostly involved with her family … one of her husbands and some combination of her kids. Not fitting into the typical “motherly” box, Ingrid spent an enormous amount of time away from her kids as they were growing up. She clearly loved them very much, as evidenced by the words in her diaries and letters, and the visuals from their time together. And the interviews with her children today make it obvious they viewed her as a fun friend, rather than the nurturing mom.

Another aspect that is crystal clear is the ambition and drive possessed by Ingrid. She even states “no one can have everything”, and her actions and words make it obvious that acting was what brought her to life – whether on screen or on stage. It never took long on the home front for her to feel the pull of her true adventurous nature, and soon enough she was back on a movie set … leaving the kids behind.

Specifics of her movie career are mostly glossed over. Casablanca has a quick segment, as does her time with Alfred Hitchcock. Instead, we get a broad perspective of the scandal that rocked the movie world … a pregnant Ingrid left her first husband (Petter Lindstrom) for her director-lover Roberto Rossellini. For the times, this was extreme impropriety and there were even boycotts of her films. No place was harder on her than the United States. Absolutely unapologetic and without remorse, Ingrid took her career to Europe. Ingrid and Roberto had three kids together, and since history has a way of repeating itself, it was only a matter of time before Roberto was with his pregnant girlfriend in India, and Ingrid moved on to producer Lars Schmidt (and his private island).

The most impact from the timeline comes courtesy of the four adult children as they recall the extended times away from their mother, followed by memorable and fun stints together. Of course, they have each had many years to come to terms with a mother who frequently chose pursuing her career dreams to spending time with them. Imagine having a mother who said “I belong more to the make-believe world of theatre and film”. It can make you tough and independent, or it can have the opposite effect. We hear each of them discuss.

This is the wrong place to look for a career retrospective of Ingrid Bergman the actress, but it’s an intimate and fascinating look at a woman who understood what was important to her, and refused to be ruled by societal expectations. Young Swedish actress Alicia Vikander provides voice-over for much of Ingrid’s written word, but it’s Ms. Bergman’s actions and the insight from Pia, Roberto, Isabella and Ingrid that complete the full portrait of a most unusual woman. Ms. Bergman died in 1982 (age 67), just weeks after her final role in the TV movie A Woman Called Golda… a fitting portrait of another woman who lived life by her own rules.

watch the trailer:




December 31, 2013

gaslight Greetings again from the darkness. Husbands were surely disliked in the 1940’s, at least by writers and filmmakers. There is no shortage of films depicting the villainous husband targeting the unsuspecting and defenseless wife. Too many to list here, but a couple years prior to this one we had Suspicion, and a couple years after, we had Notorious. The latter also features Ingrid Bergman who won her first Oscar for Gaslight, one of the more atmospheric of the psychological noir-thrillers.

Based on the Patrick Hamilton play, this one features terrific lead performances by Ms. Bergman and Charles Boyer, a role quite against type for France’s romantic leading man. Joseph Cotten delivers a solid (and nice) supporting role as the interested and inquisitive Scotland Yard detective, and making her screen debut is an 18 year old Angela Lansbury (yes this movie is now 70 years old).

Mr. Boyer is quite convincing and creepy as the despicable husband out to persuade his bride that she is slipping into insanity. The psychological abuse is painful to watch, and the art/set direction provides such perfect decor that we share the claustrophobia and entrapment with Bergman’s Paula. This audience connection allows for a most effective comeuppance or revenge scene that is simply delicious.

gaslight2 There was actually a mostly unsuccessful UK film version in 1940, but it doesn’t stand up to this expert production from director George Cukor. Mr. Cukor is the legendary director behind such classics as Little Women, The Philadelphia Story, and My Fair Lady. Gaslight received 7 Oscar nominations and in addition to Ms. Bergman’s win, it also took home the statue for Best Art Direction. The film, Cukor and Boyer all lost out to that year’s big winner Going My Way (Bing Crosby, Leo McCarey). Not many films have a psychology term named after them … here’s hoping you are never a victim of “gaslighting”.

**NOTE: the beautifully unique brass bed in the film is also featured as Judy Garland’s bed in the classic Meet Me in St. Louis

watch the trailer:


CASABLANCA – 70th Anniversary

November 26, 2012

 Leonard Maltin calls it a “perfect” movie. It appears on most all-time “Best of” lists and it had its world premiere 70 years ago today on November 26, 1942 in New York City.  Casablanca went on to win 3 Oscars for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Screenplay. The cast defined “stellar”: Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Paul Henreid, Sydney Greenstreet, Claude Rains and Peter Lorre. Dooley Wilson, who plays Sam the piano player, was in real life a drummer and couldn’t actually play piano (but that is him singing).   Director Michael Curtiz finished with more than 170 directing credits, and had some other acclaimed films (White Christmas, Mildred Pierce, Yankee Doodle Dandy), but this was clearly his career pinnacle.  There is so much more to say about the film, but I’ll save it for another time.  Just remember … “a kiss is just a kiss” …  “oh yes, the world will always welcome lovers, as time goes by“.

TMI (3-1-12)

March 1, 2012

TMI (Today’s Movie Info)


 MERYL STREEP, with her record 17th nomination, earned a third acting Oscar this year.  Only Jack Nicholson, Ingrid Bergman, and Walter Brennan won as many acting Oscars, and only Katharine Hepburn won more, with four. At 62, Streep becomes the fourth oldest person to win in this category, behind only 80-year-old Jessica Tandy (Driving Miss Daisy, 1989), 74-year-old Hepburn (On Golden Pond, 1981), and 63-year-old Marie Dressler (Min and Bill, 1930).

4 – Katharine Hepburn (Morning Glory 1933, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner 1967, The Lion in Winter 1968, On Golden Pond 1981)

3 – Meryl Streep (Kramer vs Kramer 1979, Sophie’s Choice 1982, The Iron Lady 2011)

3 – Ingrid Bergman (Gaslight 1944, Anastasia 1956, Murder on the Orient Express 1974)

3 – Walter Brennan (Come and Get it 1936, Kentucky 1939, The Westerner 1940)

3 – Jack Nicholson (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest 1975, Terms of Endearment 1983, As Good as it Gets 1997)