It’s been a bad week for directors.
Michelangelo Antonioni, director of Blowup and Zabriskie Point, died yesterday in his home in Italy. Antonioni was probably best known to most audiences for his 1966 film Blowup, which won the Golden palm at Cannes that year. American audiences became more acquainted with him through Zabriskie Point, his meditation on late ’60s American culture and counter-culture. While the film was by most accounts a flop, it was embraced by a core of fans. If nothing else, the soundtrack to Zabriskie Point is fantastic, including some great early Pink Floyd (Careful with that axe, Eugene) and Grateful Dead. Not one of my favorite directors by a long shot but someone who definitely added to the film lexicon. RIP.
Playing chess with death — a memorable string of scenes from a memorable movie. It has been butt of jokes and satire, probably the mark of the impact it has had for decades.
I remember the first time I saw The Seventh Seal (yes, I’ve seen it more than once). I was a junior in high school and my friend Beau Mount, who had the largest foreign film collection of anyone in town, invited me over after play practice to watch the film and have some dinner. I was mesmerized, and not by the dinner. It’s not that I understood everything I saw (I didn’t), but I was in awe of the way it was filmed, the imagery, the tone. And I still am in awe.
The Seventh Seal is firmly in the lineage of my film education. I had watched foreign film before then, but I hadn’t really seen it. From there I went on to try many directors and films I would have never watched, from Almadovar to Jodorowsky. Some were good, some weren’t so good, but my tastes would morph with each encounter.
Ingmar Bergman brought something to film that few others have, and whether you like his work or not, no one can deny that he changed the landscape of the cinema. Rest easy, Mr. Bergman. You will be remembered.