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?
What this means, in general, is that I definitely need to revisit and re-evaluate Bergman’s later films. Persona and onward I never much cared for.
I just recently re=watched The Magician and I found that I enjoyed it much more than I had in the past. I was completely enthralled for the first 2/3’s of the movie, taking me on a range of emotions. Although, it is true that the ending of the film is not as great as the beginning and middle, but the first parts of the film were sooo good this time around.
I think it’s an underrated Bergman
World’s Greatest Dad. I absolutely love this movie, it’s one of my favorites. It doesn’t seem to garner a lot of attention but I find it incredibly moving. It’s a true character piece in a completely messed up situation, yet it manages to have so much heart. Robin Williams makes me want to bawl like a child when I watch it.
The Village. Watch it again without the twist leaving a bad taste in the end. It’s actually a very well made film. Look at the set design, camera work, tension, atmosphere. It is a wonderfully done love story in a horror setting.
Reign Over Me. Sandler puts out an amazing performance here, Cheadle as well. It managed to tackle the issues and effects of 9/11 so well, without feeling like a cheap ploy or gimmick. It dealt with one man’s issues, but I felt it was commenting on the nation’s feelings and reactions as well.
Across The Universe Yes it is a crazy, drug fueled musical, but I loved it. I felt the movie and songs worked really well, and captured the craziness and scope of the 60’s pretty well. The movies main love story is really strong and I find all the characters interesting, for the most part. It is flawed, and down right stupid at points, but I think it’s a quality film.
I’m Not There I really liked the free form this movie took, breaking one man into so many different parts of the whole. Chocked full of poetry, music, and great nods to Dylan’s vast history. I love the use of different mediums for each character. I think every actor in this gives an incredible performance, especially Ledger. His segments are just great. Such a seamless transition from cocky young man to older asshole, i am simplifying of course. The shining gem is Blanchett though, she nailed bobby.
The Magician is possibly my favorite Bergman film (Fanny and Alexander aside). It’s that or Winter Light, or The Seventh Seal.
Cook, excellent call with World’s Greatest Dad. Love that movie as well, and it made me begin to love Bobcat Goldthwait as a writer/director.
Anyway, my list could go on and on. The few I can name are Jeepers Creepers, Joy Ride (!), K-PAX, and if you want to talk a war film I find more appealing than Full Metal Jacket, watch The Boys in Company C.
@Christopher I agree with you on The Village. I don’t really care for the rest of the Shmalyan films I’ve seen, but this had, like you said, with nice atmosphere, camera work and tension. I haven’t seen it in a while, but I think the use of the sound helped in making this a good horror film. But, I do like the ending of the film, which completely fooled me as to what had been going on in reality during the course of the film.
In the White City directed by Alain Tanner should be more well known I think
To keep it with Bergman I’m starting to think that The Magician isn’t that underrated because this is constantly getting more and more praise. Perhaps ten years ago it was but with various critics heralding it as a neglected Bergman masterpiece and the changing critical perception of it, I think most people would rank it just beneath his best.
Now for a Bergman film no one seems to mention as his best I’d vote for The Devil’s Wanton, easily his best early film and one that deserves more recognition.
As for a more general discussion of underrated films there will always be plenty of those, but it’s always to a degree. I can say Spider Man 3 was decent even if everyone hated it, but I would hardly call it a masterpiece. On the other hand a film like Gus Van Sant’s Restless clearly deserved a better reception than it got.
I also think critics were far too quick to dismiss Rambo as a “Stallone’s too old for this crap” generic action film when it was easily the best action film I’ve seen since Predator.
Although I wonder if we can make a distinction between a personal favorite and a film we think is underrated, or is there even a difference?
Five Easy Pieces
I recently rewatched Persona, after having not seen it for a few years.Didn’t really care for it then, or now. Have the perfect premise with a Nurse who is always helping and never heard, and a patient who is the exact opposite.However, not a fan of the executin.
As far as the topic, would Paper Moon be considered under rated?Though to be fair, it does get praised in most places.
This is not an underrated film http://www.allmovie.com/movie/five-easy-pieces-v17654/awards
Hara-Kari (1962)by Kobiyashi is the most underrated film of all time. I’m sure critics love it, but I never see it mentioned on this site. Also Dodsworth by William Wyler and Heroes for Sale by William Wellman. Of course these filmmakers made beautiful, accessible cinema while a lot of people on this site seem to favor abstract, pretentious dreck that makes them seem smart for “loving” it. Can anyone really say that they “love” anything by Tarkovsky? I respect what the man did with what he had to work with, but come on folks…where’s the pathos??? Great film should be great human drama, not somebody’s abstract thought process shot in an “unconventional” manner…right? Whatever. Just my opinion. Maybe I’m just an idiot…
“Hara-Kari (1962)by Kobiyashi is the most underrated film of all time. I’m sure critics love it, but I never see it mentioned on this site.”
We talk about Harakiri here all the time. Also, for a while it was at the top or even number 1 on the Mubi User’s Top 20 List — 2012. Now it’s number 9.
“Can anyone really say that they “love” anything by Tarkovsky?”
“where’s the pathos???”
Everywhere. You’ve seen his movies, right?
“Great film should be great human drama, not somebody’s abstract thought process shot in an “unconventional” manner”
I do not agree with that sentiment at all. Sorry.
“Also Dodsworth by William Wyler and Heroes for Sale by William Wellman.”
No arguments there! :)
I love (and I mean really love, like not even Platonic love but the kind of love where I’d walk on glass or catch a bullet kind of love) everything I’ve seen so far by Tarkovsky, which is everything he’s ever made. And I read his book. Yeah, love that, too.
As I’ve said elsewhere many times, Stalker was one of the films that opened my eyes and started my serious journey as a cinephile. I saw a bunch of people talking about it on this site and rented it thru Netflix. I’ll never forget that day, watching it, and being astounded by the visual texture of the film, aside from being blown away by the concept and the script. I had always been a fan of sci-fi and I have a Philosophy degree, and this film mixed those two things together and presented them in a hauntingly beautiful aesthetic. Hooked. And it’s not even his best film.
@House of Leaves
Isn’t his The Mirror your favorite movie? Would you say that is his best?
It’s one of my very favorites, yeah. I don’t really do ranked lists, but I can say there isn’t a Tarkovsky I like better than The Mirror, and I’ve been known to say that watching it is like a religious experience for me each time (I think I’ve seen it three times so far).
I’ll throw you all a real bone.
Outrage (Dir. Ida Lupino, 1950)
From IMDB: “A young woman who has just become engaged has her life completely shattered when she is raped while on her way home from work.” This, in 1950. It’s rough around the edges, but Outrage almost never mentioned to my knowledge as a good movie, much less the great one that it is.
Edit: Here’s another bone.
Observe and Report (Dir. Jody Hill, 2009)
Looked over because it has some superficial similarities to that Kevin James movie about a mall cop. Too bad, because Observe and Report is as though Taxi Driver had been imported to us from a parallel universe.
I couldn’t connect with it on a religious/spiritual level. Maybe in years to come… Certain parts do haunt me.
My most religious/spiritual film watching experience was with The Tree of Life. And the original Star Wars trilogy is my bible.
I guess I need to go on this site more often, I did not realize Hara-Kari was so well liked by MUBI users. Also, this House of Leaves person obviously loves Tarkovsky so I stand corrected again. I am going to try to locate the MUBI user’s top 20 list before I go off half-cocked. There just seems to be a sheep like mentality even among cinephiles regarding everyone’s idols…but again, maybe I’m over-analyzing the whole thing. Does everyone really think that Citizen Kane is the greatest film of all time or are we conditioned to think that? When I took film classes in college Orson Welles was shoved down my throat, but nobody even mentioned William Wyler. Of course I suppose that all depends on who is teaching the class and what their tastes reflect. I have nothing against Tarkovsky…I am glad he moves people the way that he does!
Tree of Life—I can relate with you on that one. And my first movie in theaters was Star Wars in 1977, so I’m there with ya. Just showed my four-year-old Return of the Jedi for the first time and she loved it ;)
One of the best things about being a parent, I’ve found, is sharing with them the movies that I loved and finding what sticks, then thinking of other recommendations. Both my kids are young so I’m building, but I hope to develop cinephiles out of both of them.
Kris—I liked Citized Kane, and I respect it, but it’s not even in my Top 20. Honestly, it probably wouldn’t crack my Top 50 or 100, if I ever made one. I respect it, but that only goes so far.
“Does everyone really think that Citizen Kane is the greatest film of all time or are we conditioned to think that?”
A commonly asked question.
I agree. I’d be a fool to not acknowledge Kane as a cinematic breakthrough and respect it. I even read Pauline Kael’s book on it to help me better understand it’s merits. I still wouldn’t put it in my top 300 even, but maybe I’m a contrarian. I just located the MUBI user’s top 20 list and was happily surprised to see Woman In the Dunes at number 6! I was contemplating listing that one as the most underrated film of all time. Not on this site though! ;)
:) I’m glad you like it.
I need to see it. I know, I know…
I love Citizen Kane personally. I just respected it on first viewing, but I was deeply moved the second time round. It’s in my top 100 (http://mubi.com/lists/top-100—18).
Im also glad that the film that has been called the “best movie ever” for decades now (Kane) is a genuinely good film.
Woman in the Dunes, holmes. Just following the conversation here.
wyler:the good fairy 1935the westerner 1940the letter 1940the heiress 1949
one way passage tay garnett, 1932
mitchell leisen:easy living 1937hold back the dawn 1941
Oh. I have yet to see that as well, holmes.