Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Sat Oct 16, 2021 6:03 pm 
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A misfire for the director, despite the critical admiration

In Mia Hansen-Love's new film she more directly than before references her former relationship with the much older director Olivier Assayas in a frame tale of an "American" couple (actually Tim Roth is English and Vicky Krieps is Luxembourgish) who go to Farö, the island that became the Swedish director's refuge, on a kind of double artist residency. It seems like a terrible idea, and it makes the marriage go wrong, apparently. The film seems to avoid becoming too obviously autobiographical by taking refuge in fourth-wall games. It's a filmmaker's film about filmmakers writing films about filmmakers writing films - in the shadow of one of the 20th century's most admired filmmakers. If that sounds cool to you, this is the film for you.

Critics have gushed and waxed lyrical about this film since its debut in Competition at Cannes this year. They are right to admire Hansen-Løve; she's made some lovely films. This isn't one of them. Despite its intended complexity, it's both lightweight and cloying. And lightweight not in the way of displaying, as Hansen-Løve's other films do, a light touch, but by beating around the bush and rarely getting to the point.

The man, Tony (Roth) is a successful writer-director and his wife Chris (Krieps) is a fledgling one. She sets up uneasily to write in a nearby mill, while Tony sets up shop and blithely moves rapidly ahead working in the very bedroom where Bergman shot "Scenes from a Marriage," the work that a local employee says launched a thousand divorces. While reviewers are thrilled about the multi-layered screenplay here, they overlook what a bore it tends to be from the start. Much time is wasted getting the couple from point A to point B, with every detail of the ferry and the programmed-in GPS, and then once they're settled - uneasily in Chris's case - on Farö, we are bombarded with tourist lectures about the place in relation to its famous Swedish theater director, filmmaker, and serial philanderer who, we learn (in case we have no access to Wikipedia), had nine children by six different women and produced a prodigious amount of work by never changing any diapers.

The "Bergman Safari" that Tony goes on, a bus trip around the island, is avoided by Chris, who gets a private tour from a tall young man with Prince Valiant hair called Hampus (Hampus Nordenson), who, except for the hair, looks a bit like the Norwegian actor Anders Danielsen Lie, who appears later, in the film "The White Dress," which Chris will summarize to Tony while in progress as she agonizes, you may be surprised to learn, over how to end it. Tony is somewhat inattentive. So was I.

The Bergman Safari is presumably a sendup of such affairs, especially their male-dominated artist-worship aspects, and so is the event where Tony's film is shown and he gives a lengthy Q&A that causes Chris to wander off, just as he will excuse himself to take phone calls while she's summarizing her scenario. It seems they are both bored with each other's careers - though while Chris is moody all the time, Tony seems perpetually cheery. This is one indication of the fact that while there is a superficial complexity in the film-within-film structure, all the effort expended on the layering of characters with versions of themselves makes them wind up relatively one-dimensional.

By the time Bergman Island gets to Chris's summary of her scenario, which we see (partially) enacted in rich detail, the texture has finally become interesting, especially with the introduction of Mia Wasikowska and Anders Danielsen Lie. But all the schlepping to and around the island and tourist information about Ingmar Bergman has gone on so long it's too late. There is a lot of play with flash-forward and flashback, of characters suddenly replaced by their avatars. But by that time though I hate to say this about anything, especially a Hansen-Løve film, what's happening on screen has become too boring to care. Please rent instead copies of her other films like All Is Forgiven, The Father of My Children or Things to Come, or, speaking of Anders Danielsen Lie, by all means watch the two superb Joachim Trier features he starred in, Reprise and Oslo, August 31. Stay off that island.

Bergman Island 112 mins., debuted at Cannes and showed also at Telluride, Toronto, New York, Vancouver, London, and other international film festivals. It opened in US theaters Oct. 15, 2021. Metscaore: 81%.



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