I was introduced to Ingmar Bergman, as the majority probably were, through the equally comic and macabre classic The Seventh Seal. Although at the time what initially intrigued me about Bergman was his addressing of the deepest issues (Death, the existential void, God or the absence thereof) and soon led me to anoint his “Faith Trilogy” with my highest critical accolades, especially the stark chamber drama of Winter Light (which became my favorite Bergman film and was his own personal favorite of his films), I noticed that the increasing cynicism and overt talky quality of Bergman’s films, particularly his later films, such as Cries and Whispers, etc. turned me off to Bergman, particularly after discovering the lyrical, poetic rush and mystical sweep of imagery in a film such as Paradjanov’s Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors (as a complete polar opposite to Bergman’s aesthetic.)
What I find most profound in cinema is when it transcends the boundaries and strictures of language and sets sail in the realm of pure imagery.
Surely iconic images abound throughout Bergman’s cinema, especially the early films such as the chess game with Death and dance of Death in The Seventh Seal or the white-out dream of Professor Borg’s death and the many memories and flashbacks of his childhood in Wild Strawberries. Yet, these striking images continuously disappear from Bergman’s films as his career progresses and his later films leave me hollow, despite the meticulous camera work from Sven Nykvist.
So, after such a long-winded rant, I come to the topic here—underrated films, in this case, one underrated film from Bergman’s oeuvre. After having seen almost all of his films, I consider this to be his most underrated film and it has now, surprisingly, become my favorite of his films because it contains an emphasis on imagery rather than on words. Of course, Bergman’s obsessions and his characters laying their neuroses bare are still present but they do not weigh so heavily as they do in his other films.
It is his most playful and pure film: Summer Interlude.
Do you have any thoughts about this film or a film you consider the most underrated of Bergman’s oeuvre?
Or perhaps a film from another director that came out of nowhere and became your favorite after loyally committing one film to your canon?
Kurosawa’s samurai genre pictures have always been considered the director’s best yet I’ve always found Ikiru and Dersu Uzala to be his masterpieces since they are Kurosawa’s most deeply personal and spiritual films, the former inspired by his midlife crisis and thinking about mortality and the latter a story which he had wanted to film since his youth and which regenerated his soul after his suicide attempt.
Similarly Bergman’s Summer Interlude was one of the director’s most personal films, a story from his teenage years recollecting his fleeting first love with a girl who was tragically stricken with polio.
Despite Scorsese making films such as Taxi Driver, Raging Bull and Goodfellas, all regarded as masterpieces, ive always preferred the likes of After Hours and The King of Comedy.
Here are some that are favorites of mine from these directors that aren’t commonly considered their very best:
Polanski: Knife in the Water
Kitano: A Scene at the Sea
Chabrol: Les Cousins
Weir: The Plumber
Burton: Mars Attacks!
Cronenberg: The Dead Zone
Stone: Talk Radio
Van Sant: To Die For
I do not remember much about this particular Bergman film (my favorites are Hour of the Wolf and Wild Strawberries).
And I rarely like the one’s most people consider director bests.
I second Pat’s love of Mars Attacks (tho neck and neck with Ed Wood)
I am also partial to Godard’s video period and 80s comedies (King Lear and Keep Yr Right up)
I personally feel, and have made it known here on mubi, that I think “The New World” by Malick is by far his most important film. I seems to me that the new world combines all of Malicks themes and is the apex of his “style.” Malick’s re-occuring theme of Love as transcendence is at it’s most beautiful here. He is also at his most “mythic” here. I also think that His style has built (the lyrical jump cuttyness of his editing) is at it’s most refined in this film, and goes a bit over Tree of Life.
The only film that comes to mind is High and Low, but that’s not my favorite Kurosawa. Still, that film came out of nowhere. After watching it, I thought: “Man, if this isn’t considered one of his better films, that’s saying something.”
I agree with a lot of what you said about The New World. Areas of slight disagreement:
1. I don’t know if Love as transcendence is a major theme, but maybe it is.
2. WRT to Tree of Life, in some ways the film feels like the next film after The Thin Red Line. ToL seems to be the final film that started with Badlands, and TNW seems to be dealing with different issues.
On the other hand, the approach and filmmaking in ToL seems indicate moving into new territory and because of that it isn’t as refined. (Uh, I’m sort of fumbling around here, but I’ll just throw this out there.)
No mention of Jade Scorpion?
Nah, not today.
Incidentally, I am not sure there is wide agreement about Malick’s best film (Days of Heaven for me)
You could be right. My sense is that few would say The New World, though. But I could be completely wrong about that.
Robert Altman’s 70s work gets a lot of praise, but my favorite of his is Short Cuts. It just seems like the representation of everything he wanted to accomplish and has his best cast.
Wong Kar Wai is usually praised for either Chungking Express or In the Mood for Love, but my favorite of his is Fallen Angels, the best combination of genre shock and personal narration.
And though, it’s an acknowledged classic, my favorite Hitchcock will always be North by Northwest, the craziest zaniest plot he ever had. Most people would probably say Vertigo or Psycho.
Some might chime in here (sorry) with Orson Welles’ Chimes at Midnight, but I’ve always felt that The Magnificent Ambersons – butchered though it is – to be his most impressive and poetic film.
The Coen brothers are always praised for Fargo but I think that their best is definitely Miller’s Crossing, their third film.
For me, The Man Who Wasn’t There is my favorite, though I know this is nowhere near their best.
I am also a huge fan of Radio Days, even though it’s just a bunch of silly vignettes.
I also prefer The Long Goodbye to Nashville or Short Cuts.
@Nadafingah – I agree on Fallen Angels. Something about it, but can’t put my finger on it.
I think if there’s one director to have division over a favorite, it’s Malick. All 5 of his films seemed to garner a very positive reception from some groups along with negative reception from others, especially ToL. This forum may be an exception, but I can’t even tell you how polarizing ToL was from the people I’ve spoken to, even in my film program.
For me A Serious Man is my favorite. Though, A Serious Man gets more critical props, it doesn’t have the widespread popularity of Fargo, Big Lebowski or No Country.
I strongly prefer McCabe and Mrs Miller to Nashville or Short Cuts.
Reed: Odd Man Out
Bresson: Diary of a Country Priest
Bunuel: Los Olvidados
Ford: The Quiet Man
Kiarostami: Through the Olive Trees
@ Jirin – A serious Man is a good choice, especially the sense that you have for the autobiographical nature of the setting.
I don’t think that Tim Burton was Coraline, though. I think that was Henry Selick.
Wow, you’re right. Huh. Well, then it’s a great film that copies the visual style of Tim Burton animated features.
I have not seen ‘A Serious Man’ yet, have you seen Miller’s Crossing
Just caught Summer Interlude and I must add it among my favorite Bergman films. this seems to be coming in at a very transitional part of his career. It feels both like and unlike a Bergman film, for some reason it felt like an American film of the same time. There are these moments of quiet beauty that looms over some of the sequences which seems like a particular characteristic of these early films. It’s when you get into the dialogue and the more talky parts is where it seems most like a Bergman film. The dance sequences are very interesting as well.
I usually tend to prefer the more, not necessarily obscure, but more overlooked films of particular directors. Not just for the sake seemingly having an upper hand on someone else’s knowledge, but in those films lie some very interesting things take place.
I’m a huge fan of Cronenberg’s Eastern Promises. It’s probably my favorite from him. John Ford’s The Long Gray Line is severely overlooked.
^ I really didn’t care for The Long Gray Line. To me, Drums Along the Mohawk is Ford’s most underrated film. The chase sequence once Fonda leaves the fort in the third act is one of Ford’s most beautiful and thrilling setpieces.
On the note of Bergman, I agree that Summer Interlude is very underrated. I also don’t see enough love for Shame and Passion of Anna, two films created at the height of his creative power.
Here are my personal favs from notable filmmakers that I find to be a bit unique:
Altman: California Split
Kurosawa: High and Low
Bresson: Une Femme Douce
Antonioni: La Notte
Lynch: The Straight Story
Truffaut: Shoot the Piano Player
Cassavetes: The Killing of a Chinese Bookie
Wong Kar-Wai: Days of Being Wild
I also had an obscene amount of fun with Death in the Garden, though the sublime The Exterminating Angel gets my vote for best Bunuel.
I’m usually alone in this ones:
Tarantino: Jackie Brown
Antonioni: The Passenger
Lang: Scarlet Street
Eastwood: Letters from Iwo Jima
Lean’s psychological horror of the caves in A Passage to India..
But not the epics – This Happy Breed
I was dancing. crying. ironing all at once. (There’ll be some Englishman’s bias).
Re. Bergman. The Silence cuts now; still.
Don’t you be talkin’ ‘bout The Long Gray Line like that. Just kidding. Drums Along the Mowhawk is excellent too. I think Fords’ career is laden with several films that have gone overlooked because he’s known for his more GREAT works. His range was quite remarkable.
Other under-appreciated Ford films:When Willie Comes Marching HomeUp the RiverDonovan’s ReefYoung Mr. LincolnPrisoner of Shark Island
@ Neil — Definitely agree with you on Magnificent Ambersons being Welles’ masterpiece and one of the quintessential American films.
@ Alex — Great to see love for The Passenger. I think it’s Antonioni’s masterpiece (never cared for his earlier films) and it’s in my top 10.
I find Darren Aronofsky’s Requiem for a Dream to be not one of his best films, but the greatest film of all time. Whenever I state this, people are shocked:They view Requiem as a soul draining experince. I view as much more, an engaging drama with a realistic ending.
Most people would consider Pi or The Wrestler Aronofsky’s best film.