Thursday, August 25, 2016

Thursday Movie Picks - Scandinavian Language Movies

Written as part of the weekly blogathon hosted by Wandering Through the Shelves. Join in the fun and games by picking three movies that fit the week's theme and telling everyone a bit about them!
Well, here we go: This week for Thursday Movie Picks we are leaving the hot hot heat of summer in the city to go off to the lands of Scandinavia, where it is much cooler/more bearable. For those of you who may not be entirely sure what "Scandinavia" refers to (I wasn't entirely sure myself), it is the northern region of Europe comprising three countries: Denmark, Norway, and Sweden (and sometimes also Finland, Iceland, and the Faroe Islands). For most film buffs, this means two things: Bergman and the Dogme 95 movement.

For me, it means one other thing:

You, the Living (Roy Andersson, 2007) Roy Andersson. One of the most unique voices in modern cinema. His films are all very similar: There's not really a plot so much as a series of vignettes with a static camera that have only the vaguest connection to each other. In You, the Living, the connection is the foibles of humanity, and my lord if it isn't the drollest thing I've ever seen! That isn't a word you can use to describe too many movies, much less movies today. I loved every single second of this. The humor - often but not always dark, and almost always played straight - is just right up my alley. If you haven't seen it, I urge you to seek it out and watch. At the very least, it is a unique experience you won't soon forget.

Okay. Now that we've gotten my great love out of the way...

The Seventh Seal (Ingmar Bergman, 1958) This is the one. The one that made Ingmar Bergman an international cause célèbre, ushered in the foreign art house era, and launched a thousand spoofs. The thing is, as much as The Seventh Seal has a reputation for being seriously dour and pretentious (a knight of the Crusades does play a chess game with Death, after all), it's actually not. Well, I mean, it IS, but it's also REALLY entertaining and surprisingly funny in large enough doses to counteract the seriousness. The film totally lives up to its reputation, but in surprising ways, which for me meant it not only lived up to its reputation, but surpassed it. One of the greatest films ever made, no doubt about it.

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (Niels Arden Oplev, 2009) AKA the BETTER Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. You've heard of this one, right? An investigative journalist gets hired by a rich old man to investigate the forty year-old murder of his favorite family member, and he in turn asks a reclusive hacker girl named Lisbeth Salander for help? If you haven't read the book, read it - if you can get through the first hundred pages it totally sinks its teeth into you and won't let you go until you've finished the whole trilogy. If you have, then you know the story is pretty irresistible, and that Noomi Rapace simply IS Lisbeth Salander. If there is nothing else to take away from this film (a perfectly serviceable thriller that doesn't skimp on the character study lurking underneath), it's that Rapace is a tremendous actress and deserves to be a much bigger star than she is. And that sometimes, it's best to leave films in their native language ALONE.

19 comments:

  1. Loved Seventh Seal! I only saw one film by Andersson and really enjoyed it, so I really need to see You, the Living.

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    1. Which was the other Andersson you've seen? Whichever it was, definitely see You, the Living. It's great, and if you like one Andersson film, you'll probably like them all lol.

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  2. Second time The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo has popped up, though Kevin preferred the US, personally I can't pick between the two.

    Any of these lists are incomplete with a Bergman film

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    1. LOL I find it incredibly easy to pick between the two Dragon Tattoos. I can concede that on a technical level the American version is "better" (and almost as perfectly cast as the original), but on EVERY OTHER LEVEL the Swedish film is better.

      Totally agree that you can't talk Scandinavian film without a mention of Bergman.

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  3. The Seventh Seal is a film I respect more than I actually like. It's a fine film, just not one I'm dying to go back to. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, on the other hand, is a recent fave of mine. Haven't seen the movie.

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    1. I don't know that I'd ever rewatch Seventh Seal, but I really did enjoy it far more than I expected to. Dragon Tattoo is really REALLY good. I'm assuming you meant you haven't seen my third pick (as opposed to meaning you haven't seen Dragon Tattoo), which I would HIGHLY recommend.

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  4. Of these I've only seen Seventh Seal. I liked it and appreciated it but I think I waited too long (just seeing it a few months ago) and knew too many of its secrets for it to really sweep me away. A fine film just not one that bowled me over.

    Your first is one I'm totally unfamiliar with but your passion for it intrigues me. I was only a casual fan of the American Dragon Tattoo so I've never been drawn to seek out the Swedish version.

    I'm afraid I'm one of the guilty ones of equating Scandinavian films with Bergman, Ingmar & Ingrid-as my picks will illustrate-though my first thought was the early Garbo film The Saga of Gosta Berling but that's a silent I watched with English intertitles so it doesn't really fit (so I guess I struggled-and it was a struggle-through the entire 3 hours & 3 minutes of it for very little payoff!)

    Wild Strawberries (1957)-Lovely reverie about looking back at life and the memories that come unbidden. Approaching 80 Dr. Isak Borg (Victor Sjöström), a retired doctor and professor, a remote man with a cold demeanor is traveling from his home in Stockholm to Lund to accept an honorary degree. Originally intending to fly he decides to drive instead accompanied by his daughter-in-law Marianne (Ingrid Thulin), a journey of a day. Along their way the people they meet and stops they make, including the doctor’s childhood summer home, lead him to evaluate the man he was and the one he has become. My favorite Bergman film.

    A Woman’s Face (1938)-Ingrid Bergman plays Anna Holm, a woman whose facial disfigurement has led her to become a blackmailer out of bitterness. The ruthless leader of a gang, she has no compassion for anyone until one of her victims turns out to be married to a renowned plastic surgeon giving Anna the opportunity to change her life. However the long tentacles of her former accomplices don’t want to let her go. Solid drama was remade a few years later by MGM with Joan Crawford.

    Sawdust & Tinsel (1953)-As a ragtag circus troupe makes its way through the bleak Swedish countryside conflicts arise between the members of the group. When they arrive in the town where owner Albert’s ex-wife lives he seeks reconciliation leading to bitterness from his present mistress who becomes involved with an actor with designs of his own leading to misery for all. Dark and unsettling but that’s Bergman for you.

    Honorable Mention-Cries & Whispers (1972)-Heavy, heavy Ingmar Bergman drama of recrimination and the acrid damage caused to relationships by long buried resentments. Two sisters gather at their childhood home to await the death of the third desperately ill sister. While they fail to reconnect to each other or their mortally ill sibling their maid seems to be the only person in the house who is capable of offering comfort and empathy. Color is used heavily to convey the oppressive mood of the picture although sometimes too much so, by the end you feel like you’ve been living inside a tomato for ninety minutes. Still an intricate, interesting drama.

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    1. See, I expected that to be the case with Seventh Seal for me, too, but instead I was totally surprised by it. I don't need to watch it again, but it was far more entertaining that I would have ever predicted.

      I would say that you should really watch the original Dragon Tattoo but I'm man enough to admit that a small part of why I think I didn't like the American version so much was because I had already been through the story twice (the book and the Swedish film) and so the story didn't hold any more excitement for me. But in a few years, after the memory has faded a bit, it's totally worth a look just for Noomi Rapace.

      Sawdust & Tinsel is coming up soon on my Bergman list, and I'm anxious to get to Wild Strawberries and Cries & Whispers (LOL I LOVE your description of that one!) since I hear such wonderful things about them. OOOOOOOOOOOOOH A Woman's Face sounds good! Both versions, actually. Who's better, Joan or Ingrid?

      Joan is on my mind a bit these days as I recently saw Sudden Fear on the big screen (at Film Forum) which was ridiculously entertaining - and I really mean RIDICULOUSLY. The scene where she pulls out her (beautifully) handwritten, neatly planned-out schedule for her night of espionage is AMAZING. Jack Palance is a perfect fit for his part (there's always something a bit off about him) and Joan is of course madly committed in every frame.

      And I've surprisingly seen a lot of Gloria Grahame recently between that film and then a double feature last night with The Big Heat and In a Lonely Place, and I'm slowly but surely turning around on her (head over to the recent TMP about writers for more of my thoughts on that because I replied to your old comment there where you picked In a Lonely Place).

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    2. In the Joan vs. Ingrid question they're such different women it's almost impossible to judge. Even though A Woman's Face is one of Joan's best most understated (and underrated) performances she can't help being JOAN CRAWFORD!! on occasion especially towards the end. Ingrid is more subdued and venal in her early performance but some of the Crawford intensity is ultimately needed to kick in parts of the story. So I'd call it a split decision.

      Ridiculously entertaining is the perfect description for Sudden Fear. Joan found the property and pushed it through, she had just completed This Woman is Dangerous which she considered the worst picture she ever made (conveniently forgetting everything she made after Baby Jane) and was in a bit of a slump so it's not surprising she gave it her all. That list is a hoot as is her listening to the recording and anguishing, anguishing, ANGUISHING over it!
      She had to be convinced about Palance and his off kilter looks but after seeing a test of him admitted he was right for the part. Gloria Grahame is her usual terrific self, how the Academy chose to give her a nod for Bad & Beautiful over this is a head scratcher but even if she'd won for this instead I'd still say the award belong to Jean Hagen's masterful Lina Lamont.

      While we're in Crawford Country I want to recommend a picture that is rather an anomaly in her filmography, Goodbye, My Fancy. She plays a congresswoman who returns to the college from which she was expelled years earlier to receive an honorary degree. The part had been tailored to Rosalind Russell who had been slated to appear but had to drop out at the last minute and Joan stepped in. While it's got the Crawford touches she's more wistful than usual and it's a big favorite of mine. Some extra perks-she reunites with Eve Arden as her aide and Lureen Tuttle (LOVE HER) is a highlight as her old college chum. TCM shows it from time to time.

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    3. It was really interesting watching Sudden Fear with a modern audience - we were all hooting and hollering over her ANGUISHING over that recording, which can hardly have been her intention, much less how audiences viewed it when the film was released (....right?) - it's horror-level emoting, great for what it is but MY LORD is it over the top!

      Goodbye, My Fancy certainly does sound good, and an interesting role for Joan. I LOVE Eve Arden, so that's all I need to sell me on it!

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  5. I picked The Seventh Seal as well and just love it! I love the questions posed about death, religion..life. You are right that there is humour in this as well. I have not seen the first one but have seen the English version of the Tattoo film and do want to see the original version. I have heard this version is the better of the 2

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    1. Love everything about The Seventh Seal.

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  6. Love love TGWTDT, and I'm still waiting for the right time to watch You the Living. Seventh Seal is a film I should have watched already.

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    1. I think any time is a good time to watch You, The Living, but that's just me...

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  7. I expected Dragon Tattoo to be popular. I haven't seen the other two. Seventh Seal is on my Bergman list though.

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    1. Seventh Seal is great. Definitely one of Bergman's best, which is saying something.

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  8. I also loved You, the Living. My favourite Andersson film. I loved so much the fact that it really doesn't have any plot, yet it's so interesting, and beautiful. Such an experience. And I loved the humour and the music as well.

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    1. YAY another Andersson fan! You are right that it is so beautiful. It's definitely a film I hold very near and dear to my heart.

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  9. They sure do love remaking Scandinavian films and TV nowadays...

    While I haven't seen it I think The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is still the most successful from what have been remade.

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