best film: Casablanca is the winner here though Notorious is a masterpiece as well. Casablanca is deserving of its reputation and iconic status. Curtiz is not Hitchcock or Rossellini, but he directs the hell out of this one film and of course it has one of the best screenplays in Hollywood history. Chief amongst the reasons to appreciate Casablanca are the lead performances by Bogart and Bergman. It is Bogart’s speech at the end but its Bergman’s emotional range (while Bogart plays Rick as more even and cool/steady) that help carry the film. It is enough to call it the co-lead.
best performance: Casablanca though Notorious is not far off here either. Casablanca is among the best 25 female acting performances of all-time and repeat viewings solidify Bergman’s contribution.
stylistic innovations/traits: Bergman had seventeen (17) films, so she is right there within striking distance of Meryl Streep and Katharine Hepburn (and everyone else) as far as sheer volume of archiveable film performances. She was pretty choosy in her roles- especially for the era with less than fifty (50) total films during her decades-spanning career (archiveable work from 1936-1978). What separates Bergman (ever so slightly) is that Notorious performance and her work with Rossellini. Yes, she is in Casablanca and had a great Hollywood career—full stop— but I believe she delivers a second, top performance that is, arguably, better than any one single performance by Hepburn or Streep. Bergman in Notorious might be a second top 25 performance by a female in the history of film. That is incredible. The only other actress in that realm is Masina and Masina has a total of seven (7) archiveable films so she simply cannot compete with the sheer volume of fantastic work from Bergman. As for the Rossellini period, their four films together in the 1950s crucial to Bergman’s resume. This is Neorealism (or a slight evolution of) and Bergman is a great collaborator for the great Italian master.
directors worked with: Roberto Rossellini (4) and this is key work with a top-tier auteur. Alfred Hitchcock (2)- it is a little sad of what might have been if they had continued to work together in the 1950s. and then it is Ingmar Bergman, Sidney Lumet, Jean Renoir, Victor Fleming, William Wyler, Stanley Donen, and George Cukor once a piece.
top ten performances:
- Journey to Italy
- Autumn Sonata
- Europa 51’
- For Whom the Bell Tolls
- Elena and Her Men
|1943- For Whom the Bell Tolls|
|1945- The Bells of St. Mary’s|
|1948- Joan of Arc|
|1952- Europa 51′|
|1954- Journey to Italy|
|1956- Elena and Her Men|
|1974- Murder on the Orient Express|
|1978- Autumn Sonata|
Question in particular for Drake but for others as well:
What criteria should we use to judge how good an actor is? I understand how to at least attempt to judge films, by breaking my analysis out into the different elements of film, noticing for each element what techniques the film chooses to use, and trying to evaluate how these choices are innovative, beautiful… communicative in some way.
But with actors, I don’t know how to analyze performances. Some actors specialize in very “real” performances. But how do I judge that? Off of feel? Or: some actors have enormous screen presence. I can’t take my eyes away from Katharine Hepburn in many of her films. But what, am I supposed to have a stopwatch for every film I watch, and time how long my eyes spend on Kate Hepburn versus Cary Grant, relative to their screen time? Others say acting is about being able to play a wide variety of roles. That would imply that one performance isn’t enough to judge an actor – because from one performance how can you tell their ability to change roles? Falconetti then, I guess, we can’t label a good actor.
I’m not sure what criteria I should use to judge actors’ performances.
@Snow Frog- thanks for the comment. Good question- you try to take it all in- range, screen presences — but I am also largely looking at resume here on the site as well.