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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Blogging the Hulu Plus Criterion Collection: All These Women

All These Women

When you hear "Ingmar Bergman" you think "depressing" right? You think "deep." You think "complex." Do you think "funny?" How about "silly?" Or "insane?" Or "hilarious?" If you don't it's because you've never seen All These Women. The apparent black sheep of the Bergman filmography. This is the one that never gets mentioned. Bergman did comedy before but not like this.

All These Women is about a music critic who goes to the mansion of a famous cellist in order to write his biography. There he finds him surrounded by both his wife and a harem of mistresses. There's nothing subtle about what follows, except for one part I'll get to later. This is a farce from beginning to end. This thing plays like a Animaniacs episode with even more adult humor. Bergman fans seem to snub this one but I know at least one person who treasures this film. I'll bet Woody Allen watched this film a lot. Allen is one of the biggest Ingmar Bergman fans out there. And when I was watching this film it reminded me a lot of Sleeper or Bananas, Allen's early work. There's plenty of slapstick and all of it is set to jazz. There's a scene in the beginning where the critic wrestles a gigantic bust that is hilarious. This film came out just a few years before Allen launched his own directing career. Is it possible this was his template in the early years?

But it's not all fun and games. There is that one scene that is quintessential Bergman. After being humiliated the critic confronts the cellist (who is never seen.) The critic launches into an attack on how artists are forgotten after they die and how the only thing that survives is what the critics write about them. The cellist is stunned. It's a scene that would fit in with Bergman's other films. The concept is also very characteristic of Bergman. The critic discovers that the cellist has created his own world on his estate. The mistresses go by different names and have assigned roles. The critic begins to fret that he is being absorbed into this private world and in the end he is. It's a variation of the theme Bergman explored with Persona.

The movie also shows that he is a master filmmaker. The opening is a long single take at a funeral home. The ceremony gets more and more chaotic as we watch. There are a lot of visual gags in the story. At one point a quill pen moves around like its a live bird. The critic stops at the edge of the pool wearing his suit and after a jump cut is in his bathing costume. The movie is very much of the '60s. Comedies were getting more aggressive and more surreal as the decade wore on.

I thought this was a great discovery. Subtle? Not exactly. But it's funny. I happen to like early Woody Allen. As for the script, for a dumb comedy it has a lot of ideas. That's a lesson all comedy writers should learn.

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