Bergman. Bergman’s case is incredibly strong. I have him graded out with 6 masterpieces (in 4 separate decades) which is tied for the most of any director all-time, has north of 20 archiveable films and had a clearly, unique auteur voice (if you’re easily parodied like Bergman -think Wes Anderson SNL skit- or in this case Woody Allen doing his Bergman impression in many films) it’s a sign you have your own cinematic universe and style. He’s both an amazing visual director (The Silence is a superb film with very little dialogue, Cries and Whispers is breathtaking with its use of color) and one of the greatest (if not the greatest) screenwriters of all-time (The Seventh Seal, Wild Strawberries and Winter Light, are all 50 of the best screenplays of all-time).

one of the many brilliant uses of color in Fanny and Alexander

Best film:  Persona it’s stronger visually than The Seventh Seal. Bergman already had multiple masterpieces under his belt in 1966 when he made Persona and took wall-art and his photographic achievements to a new stratosphere. The film’s wild narrative can be seen influencing everyone from Bunuel (Obscure Object of Desire) to Lynch (Lost Highway, Mulholland Drive). Sven Nykvist’s work is probably the most beautifully photographed black and white film ever made along with Raging Bull.

remarkable photography in Persona

Total archiveable films: 21

top 100 films: 3 (Persona, The Seventh Seal, Cries and Whispers)

Cries and Whispers– a transcendent use of color

top 500 films: 9 (Persona, The Seventh Seal, Cries and Whispers, Fanny and Alexander, Wild Strawberries, Winter Light, The Virgin Spring The Silence, Scenes From a Marriage)

one of cinema’s great images concluding The Seventh Seal

top 100 films of the decade:  10 (The Seventh Seal, Wild Strawberries, Persona, Winter Light, The Virgin Spring, The Silence, Hour of the Wolf, Cries and Whispers, Scenes From a Marriage, Fanny and Alexander)

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one of the shots to rival the hill silhouette scene above it for the best in The Seventh Seal

most overrated:  Hour of the Wolf is #442 on TSPDT and it doesn’t crack my top 500. For TSPDT it is Bergman’s 7th and I have it is his 10th best but we’re splitting hairs here which ultimately means I don’t think much here from Bergman is overrated if this is my choice for this slot.

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the depth of field mise-en-scene mastery

most underrated: It’s still Winter Light. I’ve got it at #254 all-time and TSPDT has it at #518 so the consensus underrated this one by hundreds of spots. Maybe the critics’ praise for Paul Schrader’s First Reformed will help shed some light on this Bergman work. Striking to look at (check out this image below- unreal) and it has some of the most first-rate, and darkest/harshest, dialogue back and forths in screen history. The scene where Björnstrand eviscerates Ingrid Thulin is tough to watch.

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Winter Light‘s single greatest image– fantastic photography

gem I want to spotlight:  Shame. It’s hard to keep track of all the brilliant collaborations (especially in the artistically fertile period of the 1960’s where Bergman has five top 100 films of the decade) with Bergman, his muse Liv Ullman, Max von Sydow, Gunnar Bjornstrand and dp Sven Nykvist but this one has the distinction of being Bergman’s only one set in the future and/or about the war. 33 minutes in there is the dazzling shot of Bergman’s trademark mise-en-scene blocking using faces as structures- von Sydow is lying flat on the ground and Ullmann’s face is cut in half just above. It’s gorgeous.  There’s wonderful war-ravaged set pieces almost like a Rossellini post WW2- neorealism film. The silent, elliptically edited finale in the boat as they wade through dead bodies is brilliant as well. It’s an excellent addition to the Bergman canon.

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there are hundreds of impressive framed/blocked faces in Bergman’s oeuvre

stylistic innovations/traits:  Framing, dialogue (the framing of dialogue and actors- specifically faces), religious filmmaker (certainly among the most thematically serious of auteurs). Like many of the greats who started out and are perhaps known for their work in black and white his work in color is astonishing (Fellini, Kurosawa are among the others who come to mind with Juliet of the Spirits and Ran). Specifically, both Cries and Whispers and Fanny and Alexander are among the 25-30 most beautiful color films ever made.  His villain in Fanny and Alexander is also one of the most readily apparent or first to come to mind when I think of the history of cinema. Theology and intellectualism—meditations on God, death and doubt.

mise-en-scene perfection

top 10

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style tied to narrative in Persona
  1. Persona
  2. The Seventh Seal
  3. Cries and Whispers
  4. Fanny and Alexander
  5. Wild Strawberries
  6. Winter Light
  7. The Virgin Spring
  8. The Silence
  9. Scenes From a Marriage
  10. Hour of the Wolf
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incredible photography from Wild Strawberries that pre-dates his work with Sven Nykvist

By year and grades

1951- Summer Interlude R
1953- Sawdust and Tinsel HR
1953- Summer With Monika R
1955- Smiles of a Summer Night HR
1957- The Seventh Seal MP
1957- Wild Strawberries MP
1958- The Magician R
1960 – The Virgin Spring MS
1961- Through a Glass Darkly R
1963- The Silence MS
1963- Winter Light MS/MP
1966- Persona MP
1968- Hour of the Wolf HR
1968- Shame R/HR
1969- The Passion of Anna R
1972- Cries and Whispers MP
1973- Scenes From a Marriage MS
1976- Face to Face R
1978- Autumn Sonata HR
1982- Fanny and Alexander MP
2003- Saraband R
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Liv Ullman in Cries and Whispers – avant-garde color saturation

*MP is Masterpiece- top 1-3 quality of the year film

MS is Must-see- top 5-6 quality of the year film

HR is Highly Recommend- top 10 quality of the year film

R is Recommend- outside the top 10 of the year quality film but still in the archives