Monday, July 30, 2007

Bergman Rock

Today we mourn the passing of Sweden's most internationally famous filmmaker, Ingmar Bergman. Just like anyone remotely interested in films, I love Bergman's works. Of course, I always preferred his earlier, funnier movies. Smiles of a Summer Night is my favorite - a delightfully light comedy with the cream of the Swedish acting elite. Several of the other mid-50's films are also fantastic and well worth revisiting, like The Seventh Seal and Wild Strawberries.

What many don't know is that in the 1950's Bergman did his bit to create Sweden's filthy reputation (i.e. the one we are celebrating in this blog). The great exploitation maverick Kroger Babb bought the rights to Summer with Monika and turned it into something a lot more salable: Monika - the Story of a Bad Girl. This was done by cutting out most of the dialog while retaining all the sunbathing and skinny-dipping. The result was the most widely seen Ingmar Bergman film in the US to this day. While Svensk Filmindustri initially complained bitterly about what had been done to the film, they changed their tune when it started raking in the cash. Thus Monika was eventually released in the US in two versions: Bergman's original cut for the art house circuit, and Bad Girl for the raincoat crowd. The latter made such an impression on a young John Waters that when he visited the Göteborg Film Festival, his only request was to meet the film's star, Harriet Andersson (who seemed quite puzzled by the attention). Unfortunately, the exploitation version of Monika will never be seen in public again - at least not until the current copyright holders grow a sense of humour.

I'm afraid I don't own a single Ingmar Bergman poster, but I do own a few for a film by Bergman's assistant director on Persona - Bo Arne Vibenius.

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