34. “Crimes and Misdemeanors”, Woody Allen (1989)

Part of The 100 Greatest Movies I’ve Ever Seen list.

Crimes and Misdemeanors

Crimes and Misdemeanors

dir. Woody Allen scr. Woody Allen cin. Sven Nykvist with Caroline Aaron, Alan Alda, Woody Allen, Claire Bloom, Mia Farrow, Joanna Gleason, Anjelica Huston, Martin Landau, Jenny Nichols, Jerry Orbach, Sam Waterston

In 100 words:Misdemeanors is Allen’s most perfect film and best representation of his nihilistic world view, a deeply philosophical but never sanctimonious examination of the presence of God and conscience. It’s a cold movie: Bergmanesque not only in its themes or even the look provided by Nykvist, but also his formalist camera work, editing rhythm and structure and classical music selection. Still, it’s unmistakably Allen’s voice. His dialogue is rich with sardonic humor and playful wit rarely topped elsewhere, and his cast is wholly terrific. Landau’s monologue justifying his action ranks among the most excellent scenes in Allen’s filmography. A career peak.

Other Movies for Context: Interestingly enough, the closeness of the material to Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment reminded me mostly of Lav Diaz’s Norte, The End of History (2013), although that is formally more rigorous than this. Elsewhere in Allen’s huge filmography, this stands among his finest films: Hannah and Her Sisters (1986), Annie Hall (1977), and Husbands and Wives (1991), proving that serious Allen is most interesting to me than seriocomic Allen.

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39. “Cries and Whispers”, Ingmar Bergman (1972)

Part of The 100 Greatest Movies I’ve Ever Seen list.

Cries and Whispers.jpg

Cries and Whispers aka Viskningar och rop 

dir. Ingmar Bergman scr. Ingmar Bergman cin. Sven Nykvist with Harriet Andersson, Kari Sylwan, Ingrid Thulin, Liv Ullmann

In 100 words: No film on this list has disturbed me quite as much as this, the nastiest and most emotionally violent movie that Bergman has ever made. His characters inflict such wretched emotional torment on each other throughout the picture, as two sisters watch a third sister die. Bergman frequently flashes back to a period in the three sisters’ lives where they exhibited abhorrent behavior to hurt themselves and those around them, revealing just how broken the family is. The vivid use of reds and blacks, its frequent close-ups of faces, and silences punctuated by bells heighten the stinging experience of watching.

Other Movies for Context: Is there any movie by Bergman that reaches the heights of this one in terms of its portrayal of a family? The closest I can think of from what I’ve seen is the great Fanny and Alexander (1983), which portrays a more loving film that’s broken by experience.

50. “Shame” , Ingmar Bergman (1968)

Part of The 100 Greatest Movies I’ve Ever Seen list

Shame

Shame aka Skammen

dir. Ingmar Bergman scr. Ingmar Bergman cin. Sven Nykvist with Liv Ullmann, Max von Sydow, Sigge Furst, Gunnar Bjornstrand,  Ulf Johansson

In 100 words: The Bergman film that feels the least gimmicky in its construct but still the most potent in its delivery. Released at the height of Vietnam War, this film affirms the savagery of war but its intrusion into a couple’s life manifests not only in the physical toll but more profoundly in their psychological well-being. Their marriage was never perfect, as the script’s incisive dialogue suggests early on, but the terror and chaos have magnified their weaknesses, and cracked open their animosity towards each other. Shot for shot, it’s Bergman’s most realistic and immediate film. Bleak, unsparing, and damn near perfect.

Other Movies for Context: Thematically, Bergman’s movie kind of reminds me of The Hurt Locker (2009), although blown up and more focused on “war as a drug” aspect. Although underneath that story, it feels like a rich examination of a couple so unsuited for each other. Otherwise, Bergman’s filmography offers a rich examination of marriage: Scenes from a Marriage (1973) being another highlight, while his script for The Best Intentions (1991) was directed by Bille August. Bergman is among my favorite directors, and he will show up two more times on this list.