Checkmate for Ingmar Bergman, 1918-2007

In one sense, Ingmar Bergman cheated Death. You might recall that Death himself cheated while playing Max Von Sydow’s Knight for his life in Bergman’s masterpiece “The Seventh Seal.” But even though the grim reaper finally claimed the 89 year-old legend today, Bergman outlived Death, or at least the actor who personified him in his film — Bengt Ekerot, who kicked the bucket in 1971.

Such is the power of movies.

The world is certainly a better place because of the profundity of “The Seventh Seal,” the transcendent despair of “Winter Light,” the delicate tragedy of “Monika,” the sublime sado-masochism of “Sawdust and Tinsel,” the shattering performances of “Persona” and the glimpse into the infinite and the pathetically human provided by so many other films by the world’s biggest and most beautiful party pooper. On the other hand I could have done without the overwrought and overrated “Cries and Whispers,” the turgid second half of “Fanny and Alexander “ (loved her, hated him) and the imitative pretensions of the latterday Woody Allen.

 But the bottom line is, who of equal greatness remains? The venerable New Wavers Godard, Resnais and Rohmer, of course. The Iranian Abbas Kiarostami, Zhang Yimou from China, Hou Hsiao-Hsien from Taiwan, perhaps Herzog, maybe our own Martin Scorsese. I’m sure I’ve left some out.  But when they’re gone, who will take their place? And more importantly, by that time, will there be any one left who cares?

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