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The Deaths of Icons

Tuesday, July 31, 2007


Ah c'mon, death ain't so bad if you've got music!


Am I coming or going?

The passing of great artists is always a melancholy affair, especially when their work has touched you personally, and influenced how you go about producing your own art. Ingmar Bergman passed away yesterday at age 89, and today, Michelangelo Antonioni has died at age 94. That two such tremendous icons of 20th century film should die within hours of each other makes it feel like there is some kind of surreal, cinematic cosmic timing at work.

I cannot speak about the body of work of these two filmmakers, indeed, I am ashamed to admit, I have only seen a handful of their films – three each: Bergman’s Wild Strawberries, The Seventh Seal, and Cries and Whispers, and Antonioni’s L’avventura, Blow-Up, and The Passenger. But even just within these, their style and power as filmmakers burst forth. These are all major works, and revered as great films. And it’s not hard to see why.

I find more resonance in Antonioni’s cinema of dream-like (verging on nightmarish) wonderings, then in Bergman’s bleakness, but this is not the place to say which is better then the other – that is all a matter of personal taste anyway. What is important to note, is that they were contemporaries in the film world, producing ground-breaking works in the 1950s, 60s and 70s. They helped change the way people saw movies – without them, the study of film, and the concept of filmmaker-as-artist, would have spent a lot more time gaining acceptance. Even today, if one wanted to sound like an erudite film buff, with knowledge to spare regarding art cinema, just pepper your conversation with references to Bergman’s famous ‘playing chess with Death’ sequence, or the way that Antonioni took the mickey out of Swinging London.

There isn’t much I can say about these two filmmakers that hasn’t already been said by every major news publication, online and in print. All I can do is remember images, and sounds, and emotions these films gave me. The crinkling of paper, as David Hemmings rolls around with a couple of models on the floor of his studio and the imaginary tennis, in Blow-Up. The haunting, eery atmosphere of Cries and Whispers, and that fabulous final shot of The Passenger, which lasts for at least ten minutes. These are all moments that I have tucked away, and stored in my memory. And while I know there are those in the world mourning the loss of two cinematic masters, it is not my place to do so. My job is to cherish those films I have seen, while seeking out others, and, in some minor, perhaps inconsequential way, keep their legacies alive. llewopemearg

One Comment leave one →
  1. James17930 permalink
    Tuesday, July 31, 2007 1:59 pm

    graeme seems to have become our resident elegist.

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