SARABAND (Ingmar Bergman, 2003)

Below is an old e-mail that I sent friends a few years back, retrieved for me by one of its recipients:

Distracted by the unhappy news that that dreadful Crash is Oscar-bound, I forgot to do two things: wish you all a happy Friday the Thirteenth, with all the gore your dripping hearts desire, and tell you about Ingmar Bergman’s Saraband, which I watched last night (on DVD). Saraband is writer-director Bergman’s thirty year-later sequel to his Scenes from a Marriage—a film, I daresay, we have all seen more than once.
     Saraband has its lovely moments, and a performance by Liv Ullmann—an actress who is no favorite of mine—that is wonderful. Although Ullmann continues to be humorless and (but now only a tad) sanctimonious, this is easily the warmest, sharpest performance she has given. If you, like me, usually get creeped out by The Ullmann, you shouldn’t necessarily avoid Saraband—an exceptionally easy Bergman film to watch, as Bergman films go. The Ullmann has improved with age.
     Alas, the film is not without its Bergmaniacal cruelties—for instance, a father and son who each tells the other how much he hates him: you know—the sort of thing that warms Bergman’s heart but chills and depresses the rest of us. Nothing else in the film, with the exception of a few dazzlingly directed moments, rises to the level of Ullmann’s performance. But, for the most part, the film is enjoyable as half-mellowed Bergman. So dust off your old Bergmania, draw down a bottle of bourbon, and indulge. The DVD includes a “Making of . . .” documentary that even allows one to spend a little time with The Man himself.
     And, if you adore The Ullmann, as I know some of you do, you will probably have the time of your life. Oh, by the way, you will also get to see The Ullmann naked (what she won’t do for her long-ago partner!)—but, to get to that vision (lookin’ good, old girl!), you will also have to see Erland Josephson, now in his eighties, naked as well. All this unexpected nudity occurs in the chapter titled “Hour of the Wolf.” No comment.

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