' ' Cinema Romantico: Raise A Glass to Ingrid Bergman

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Raise A Glass to Ingrid Bergman

As must be common knowledge by now, Cinema Romantico is not a blog that follows the trends. It sets them. This is as definitive as Boise being the capital of Idaho. For instance, I called the chemistry shared by “Spiderman” superstars Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst years before it happened. How? A script I wrote prior to "Spiderman's" casting contained a main character named Tobey (fellow blogger Movie Idiot can confirm this), which is clearly and most obviously a nod to He Who Played Spiderman. The love interest of this character was named Alicia but came at a point when I envisioned Kirsten Dunst for every female character I wrote. So there you go. The evidence is sound and unshakeable. I was way ahead of the curve.

Let the record also show when Billy Dee Williams is finally (and rightfully) cast as Batman, I called it.

I mention all this because Cinema Romantico has decided to declare the date of May 31 as Ingrid Bergman Day. I’m making it mandatory that you rent one of the following films this evening: “Casablanca”, “Notorious”, or “Stromboli”. No exceptions. Drink the Ingrid kool-aid. I command you. And when the rest of Hollywood pulls it together and recognizes this officially, remember who put the so-called wheels in motion.

Okay, now that all that is out of my system, I must note I was able to view the illustrious “Casablanca” on the big screen yet again last night. For those keeping score at home this means I have seen this majestic film in a real movie theater twice in only four months. Oh, sweet gods of cinema, you spoil me so. I could waste my entire morning simply re-writing the entire screenplay for your blog-viewing pleasure but I’ll spare you such a delight. Instead I’d like to focus on a single line from what many consider the finest film ever made.

The first time Bergman’s Ilsa and Bogart’s Rick meet up we come to realize they have, in fact, met before. Rick makes mention of the last time they spoke oh so many years ago in Paris and this is Ilsa’s response:

“How nice, you remember. Of course, that was the day the Germans marched into Paris.”

Re-read that line. Good. Now, re-read it again. It’s pretty ridiculous, isn’t it? Just sitting there on the page it comes across like a definite howler. The music played over it in the actual movie is happy and lilting during the first sentence, only to turn dark and ominous during the second. This is the classic cinematic device of “Reinforce-The-Mood-With-Music-Lest-Our-Audience-Is-Too-Stupid-To-Figure-It-Out-On-Its-Own”. Granted, this technique was much more commonplace in the 40's but even for that time this particular musical cue goes a tad overboard. A bad line and panicky direction? This is a road that always leads to disaster.

Or does it? Not when Ingrid Bergman is your actress, loyal readers. She convinces us to the fullest extent of this wild swing in emotion. In fact, as you're watching the movie for the first (or 18th) time you don't even realize how ludicrous the line is. It's 0nly when you stop to contemplate it afterwards that you get a grip on what a tremendous feat it was. Even Kate Winslet couldn't have made that line work. Faye Dunaway might have had a shot when she was at the absolute top of her game but I doubt it. Nope, the dearly departed Ingrid was the only one who raged with enough brilliance to make such a line sound both effortless and magnificent.

I know people get sick and tired of the constant The Greatest Ever......and so on and so forth. But I just don't care. Not this morning. Not after having witnessed that holy film again last night. I'll say it and I'll mean it. Ingrid Bergman is the greatest actress who's ever lived. It's Ingrid Bergman Day, those of you with no flair for the over-dramatic! The day was created for such things to be said!

It was several years after "Casablanca" that Ingrid Bergman wandered into an almost empty movie theater one night and came across Roberto Rossellini's "Rome: Open City". She was so moved by what she saw that she sent the Italian filmmaker a letter that advised, If you need a Swedish actress who speaks English very well, and who in Italian knows only "ti amo", I am ready to come and make a film with you.

Damn it, that's cool! She was so inspired that she pleaded with the director herself. Nowadays, an actress would have her agent do the pleading, assuming an actress would be inspired to such a degree and the paycheck was satisfying. It was Jeremy Piven who said to John Cusack in "Serendipity" (and I cannot even fathom that I'm discussing "Casablanca" and "Serendipity" in the same essay but you can go bathe in the East River if you have a problem with it) - "The greeks only asked one question after a man died - did he live with passion?"

Ingrid Bergman lived with passion. She acted with passion. And I think every person and actor would be wise to learn from her.


Anonymous said...

For your Bergman viewing pleasure I recommend both Gaslight and Anastastia as well. Gaslight because it is one of the creepiest movies I've ever seen ("I'm just a figment of your imagination"), and Anastastia because in it you get one of Bergman's greatest performances, plus Yul Brynner when he was young and good in his year of movie glory.

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