Salient: Victoria University Students' Paper. Vol. 30, No. 9. 1967.
'All These Women' a film that lacks substance
'All These Women' a film that lacks substance
In the magazine Movie, issue No. 13, 1965, Jean-Luc Godard is quoted as saying to Antonioni that Ingmar Bergman's All These Women "is a film purely for himself, a diversion. . . . It's like someone who's having fun alone in his room playing the fool. Then if you go in, you say—The guy's a complete idiot. But he's very happy to play the idiot in his bathroom."
In the same issue Ian Cameron asserts that this film is an attack against Bergman's critics. Thus "many of the gags go on long after they have ceased being funny and continue until they are quite unpleasant. ... All These Women is aimed against the critics in form as well as content: outside its basic story it is designed to produce disappointment, even outrage in them. Not just a comedy which frequently doesn't try to be funny, but a first film in colour from a major director which displays almost no interest in colour."
If Godard and Cameron are right, then this film is an example of the worst kind of artistic self-indulgence. It is rather like a reputable director deliberately setting out to make a boring or thoroughly bad film. He may very well succeed, but who would be willing to sit through the movie merely in order to applaud the fact that the director has realised his intention?
There is one title—the instruction not to take the fireworks symbolically—which is construed as being aimed at Bergman's interpreters. This would be fine if he was the victim of the interpreters, if they attributed meanings to his films that he did not intend, or even if he did not intend them to embark on this activity at all. The shaft misfires, however. So long as Bergman insists on symbolic content in his films (i.e. events and images which simply cannot be taken at face value) then he must expect them to fall prey to (as Cameron put it) "any slick operator seeking to show off his interpretative brilliance:'
Disregarding who or what Bergman is attacking, if he is attacking anything at all, I don't think there is sufficient substance in All These Women to justify its being considered seriously, either as drama or comedy. Whereas Kramer's It's A Mad World was described as a "laugh-a-minute comedy," this film is in the "laugh-every-five-minutes" category. It is about a tenth as funny as the average Hollywood farce.
Bergman may very well be thumbing his nose at his public and the critics, but he deserves no plaudits. On another level, what comments he might be making about "The Pate Of The Artist In Contemporary Society" or "The Artist v. The Critic" are not sufficiently meaningful or precise to hold our attention when the film drags—which is often. Then there is the colour to be considered. "Antonioni's first film in colour!" and "Bergman's first film in colour!" scream the blurbs.
Pray what is all the fuss? One might expect such directors to approach the problem with some interesting ideas, and certainly Antonioni painting the grass, etc, in The Red Desert is a novel procedure. (When Mr. Distributor, will this film be seen here?). The fact is that imaginative use of colour photography is not restricted to any specific class of director or technician, but can be seen in sources as varied as Italian Hercules epics, off-beat dramas like Leslie Stevens's Hero's Island, Corman horror films and multi-million dollar spectacles. In All These Women the colour is reasonably attractive. That is all.
Bergman's stock company of female actors No one receives any help from the script, alternating as it does between banality and that too-smart omniscience peculiar to most stories written "after the event." Perhaps the director was overwhelmed by all the lovely production value, for this is very much a Speigel-type prestige film, with performs well. They are collectively more animated than in the serious sagas. Most of the film's attractions are contained in the playing of the central role, a brilliant performance by Jarl Kulle, last seen in Dear John. He acts in a broad comic style reminiscent of Groucho Marx, Norman Wisdom and Stan Laurel.
Yes, we did publish a scene from "Blow-Up" in the previous issue. But we just couldn't resist showing you this collection. Models display the original Jocelyn Richard costumes for the film.
Man, they're way, way out. Don't they really grab you.
We await for what Mr. Benson will have to say in his next review.
It is unfortunate that he is called upon to utter the most atrocious line in All These Women; at the conclusion he looks at the camera and glumly informs what is left of the audience that the film has ended. Dedicated fans will undoubtedly get more out of this film than I ever could, but apart from isolated bits and pieces and Jarl Kulle I think there is little to recommend it. "Genius," says the impresario Jilker at one point, "is making a critic change his mind." All These Women has done nothing towards changing my mind about the films of Ingmar Bergman.
The Night Of The Generals is an involved whodunit with lots of trimmings. Set for the most part in war-time Europe, it includes references to the occupation of Warsaw (Chopin's Polonaise is on this occasion mercifully absent), the death of Rommel, the July plot against Hitler and so on. Director Anatole Litvak has explored similar territory in other films, but this is by no means as successful as some of his previous efforts.
The last Litvak film I saw was Five Miles To Midnight, a thriller starring Anthony Perkins and Sophia Loren. Although the plot was ludicrous and the acting substandard, Litvak's direction was more than competent and did at least succeed in giving the film some personality and style.
In The Night Of The Generals there is little that is good and much that is awful three established stars in lead parts, Christopher Plummer, Juliette Greco and Harry Andrews gracing minor roles, impressive reconstructions of historical events and large-scale set pieces.
At least some of the money was well spent; the film has a pretty surface, despite the efforts made by the theatre projectionist to sabotage the colour photography. But the guiding hand Is not there. I have the impression that Litvak was bored with the whole affair, and the film is lethargic as a consequence. The Night Of The Generals does have one redeeming feature: there are some pointed, ironic observations of the change in attitudes caused by 20 years of social and political upheaval. And there is even a joke about Wagner which is mildly amusing.
Donald Pleasence and Philippe Noiret are the best in a variable lot of actors. Pleasence has a way with dialogue that makes the lines sound better than they are. On the other hand, one cannot help but like this humane little fellow, a pre-Nazi relic from ye olde Merrie Deutschland. Peter O'Toole gives a brilliant performance on two notes, but surprisingly one almost believes in the character as he commits suicide at the film's conclusion.
The Van Gogh self-portrait which sends O'Toole off on his fits of twitchlngs and shuddering looks suspiciously like the picture of Vincent Price in Corman's The Haunted Palace. One almost expects (or hopes) that old Vince will stride majestically on to the scene and banish O'Toole to the land of the undead. But Peter needs no help, in his performances since (and including) Lawrence Of Arabia he has succeeded in playing himself into the unchallenged position of filmdom's number one zombie.