Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man with a Naive Mother

This is not at all what I expected. Having half-watched, half-slept-through the only other Bergman to which I've ever been exposed (Persona; I'm sure we're in for it), I was bracing myself for a stark, oblique, subdued movie that was PHILOSOPHICAL. What I got was a soap opera, fairy tale, Alice in Wonderland mash-up that equal parts entertained and frustrated me. The frustration was on two levels: structural and character. I thought the transition between the different moods and locations was a bit abrupt, and I was FURIOUS at Emilie for marrying a guy who even looks like a Disney villain. I wonder if the long version more seamlessly integrates these different moods and/or better accounts for Emilie's decision to marry Bishop von Sadist. Not that I'm volunteering to watch it.

I don't recall wikipedia mentioning it, but Netflix calls this film "autobiographical," and it totally felt to me like a movie about a kid learning how to be an artist (i.e., lying) and how to worship the matriarchy. Not knowing much about Bergman's oeuvre (see above), I'm not sure how Alexander's way of seeing the world jibes with his aesthetic as a whole, but I liked how the Bishop's death was projected on his mind like a movie. Though what was up with Ismael? And Uncle Jakob (who I loved) and his house of bizarreness? Are we thinking this was good for Jews? Considering when it took place, seems like something to think about.

As far as influencing Allen, I could see it in the scenes with the rich family. He's also committed to beautiful interiors, family dynamics, and an insistence that being super rich is not only better, but normal. I also could see the line of descent to Wes Anderson (the theatre stuff, Alexander even looks like a younger Max Fischer), and the worship of powerful and/or suffering women coupled with a fantastical sensibility that I hesitantly call magical realism screamed Pedro Almodovar to me.

I watched the whole thing in one go, and was definitely invested in the characters. Though it seems Fanny had about two lines and I didn't even know who she was until an hour in.

What sayeth the book?

1 comment:

  1. Mmm, yes, re: your Allen comparisons. Maybe that's what I couldn't quite grasp.

    Poor Fanny! I didn't know who she was either and didn't know who Alexander's parent's were until he was called to the death bed-I thought maybe Maj or the grandmother for a bit. It seems strange to not actually establish family connections in a film that is so concerned about family but that is also the film's concept of family I guess.