Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Smile of the Summer Night

Eine kleine Nachtmusik

About the title: to the best of my sleuthing, Bergman's Sommarnattens leende [1955] translates from the Swedish to Smile of the Summer Night. In America and the western lands, it metamorphosed upon theatrical arrival to Smiles of a Summer Night, and that has stuck. One wonders whose instinct found the latter more parseable. As in all varieties and degrees of employment-life, it seems there's seldom an item that, presumably, some higher-up can just leave be without editorial monkeying.


"No, cry our patent technicians, it's old-fashioned, it's not cinema, after all the cinema is a craft.

"Well, it isn't. The cinema is not a craft. It is an art. It does not mean teamwork. One is always alone; on the set as before the blank page. And for Bergman, to be alone means to ask questions. And to make films means to answer them."


"Wishing won't make just anyone a goldsmith."

—Jean-Luc Godard, "Bergmanorama," Cahiers du cinéma no. 85, July 1958. Translation by Tom Milne.

The lawyer Fredrik Egerman (Gunnar Björnstrand), absurd in his affected dye-propriety, is married to Anne (Ulla Jacobsson), a 19-year-old virgin. He's had studio photos taken of him and her which speak to his vanity and his pride in his prize acquisition, but which also suggest the tarot. All the scenarios depicted throughout a deck might be found in this masterwork, set in the early 20th Century, which seems to encompass a particularly wide range of the human experience — its folly, its fortune, and Providence for good measure.

Thus for now end my notes pertaining to Smile of the Summer Night. I had previously been planning to collaborate on a piece on the film with Uncas Blythe, but our posterns got jammed, logistically speaking. (We'll be working together on another text on Bergman some time in the future.) I've seen the film so many times its clockwork and symmetries seem not only natural but by now inevitable, so I'm less inspired to put down in words what makes the whole thing tick. Suffice to say that with Summer with Monika it's Bergman's greatest achievement up to this point in his career. Two lines I wrote at the end of my notes whose context I don't remember:

"The language of music is widening out." -Elvis Costello

"Contrary to common thought, Shakespeare doesn't rush you to the end."


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