Wednesday, February 13, 2008

50th Anniversary Award for Best Film, 1957


The Seventh Seal (55 points/9 votes)

"Just in terms of modern cultural history, the whole concept of moviemaking as a personal form of creative expression--a means of working as an artist--would be very different if it hadn't been for Ingmar Bergman. And Ingmar Bergman's career, reputation, and public identity would not be quite the same if he had never made The Seventh Seal. Thanks to this movie, which I didn't actually see until I was in my late twenties, I have known for as long as I can remember that Death is a serious-faced man with an ashen complexion who wears a hooded long robe and plays chess. What isn't as easy to make clear to the uninitiated is how excitingly fresh this movie still feels, after many viewings and more than fifty years on the shelf, and how much more there is to it than its central image. Someone who hasn't seen it might not guess how emotionally varied it is--and how funny. Bergman's ability to see reasons for despair in anything made it possible for him, in his previous film, Smiles of a Summer Night, to make a great sex comedy tinged with bone-shattering melancholy. Here, his seriousness of purpose and his showman's gifts are in such uncanny balance that he doesn't undercut the power of his vision of life squandered even when he throws in an image that might have come from one of his parodists--the man looking down from the top of the tree he's climbed to escape danger to see Death, smiling, sawing away at its trunk. In his lesser work, Bergman could see cause for despair in situations that others might think better called for a stiff drink, but in this film, with its doomed protagonist (Max Von Sydow) and set amid devastation sewn by warfare, ignorance, and plague, he used the tools for a vision of hopelessness to forge an affirmation of the underappreciated value of life." ~ Phil Nugent

Runners-up:
Sweet Smell of Success (54/8)
12 Angry Men (48/8)
Bridge on the River Kwai (41/6)
Paths of Glory (40/7)

Click here for complete results

5 comments:

Hedwig said...

It's started!

As you know, I didn't vote in this category because I apparently have seen only one (notable) film from 1957...Something to be ashamed of, I know, but at least I know how to pick-em: the one film that I did see is the winner.

Steve said...

Only seen it once, back in film school, but I remember being struck by exactly that which Nugent brings up: the dispartiy between its somber reputation and that fact that good portions of it are really funny. (Funnier than Smiles of a Summer Night, anyway.)

Kza said...

I'm shocked that all five of my picks got 2 or more votes. Good job, other "Run of the Arrow" voter.

cjKennedy said...

I steered clear of this one for years, assuming it was boring and depressing.

I finally decided I'd be a pretty shabby film fan if I died not having scene the movie so I clenched my teeth and finally had a look. Of course I was amazed.

Like Nugent, I was struck by how funny it was. Not in a slip-on-a-banana peel kind of way, but it certainly wasn't the funeral dirge I was expecting.

Though it wasnt my own pick for #1, it's a hard pick to argue with.

Steve said...

Also, why is it that I think I've for a long while horribly underrated The Silence and thus need to see it again. Why.