August 11, 2007


In the aftermath of his failed third-party candidacy of 1912, a furious Theodore Roosevelt wrote to Amos Pinchot

"When I spoke of the Progressive Party as having a lunatic fringe, I specifically had you in mind."

Roger Ebert might have been thinking of this letter himself when we wrote to refute Jonathan Rozenbaum's Scenes from an Overrated Career and to defend Ingmar Bergman.

I have long known and admired the Chicago Reader’s film critic, Jonathan Rosenbaum, but his New York Times op-ed attack on Ingmar Bergman (“Scenes from an Overrated Career,” 8/4/07) is a bizarre departure from his usual sanity.

Ebert is usually cheerful and unflappable, even when heaping scorn on bad movies. And I can see why: Rozenbaum's piece isn't an argument, it's a pile of mud and stones and snow splattered against the wall. Bergman must be bad because he isn't box-office. Then Bergman is bad because he's too accessible in his handling of actresses. He's too blonde and white. He's like George Cukor and John Ford. Or he's too obscure. Woody Allen liked Bergman, or vice versa. The constraints of an op ed are rigorous, but this seems entirely unfair to Bergman.

There's no point in urging Bergman to use fewer Swedish actors. Not now. What good can it do?