Still simmering over J. Podhoretz's sniping at Bergman and his suggestion that Bergman admirers are a species of poseur, I went looking for more substantial commentary. (Not your fault, Mary Ann--I had read the piece before you mentioned it here.)
Here is a fine overview by self-described "right-wing film geek" Victor Morton. I only skimmed his detailed comments, as I've either not seen most of the works he mentions or saw them thirty or more years ago, and I'd like to see them first, or again, on my own, so to speak. But his overall view lines up with mine pretty well, and unlike me he's truly knowledgeable about film in general.
I note with approval that Morton lists Cries and Whispers as one of his all-time favorite movies. I saw it only once, when it came out, 1973 or so, and I don't think I've ever been so moved by a film. I think, looking back, that I can say it changed my life. More precisely, I guess, it changed my mind and heart, so that there were certain aspects of life that never looked the same afterwards.
When I ask myself why I fell in love with even Bergman's extremely bleak work, one part of the answer is that while he's telling us, through the actions of his characters, how terrible life can be, he's also, through his imagery, telling us how beautiful it is. I've heard people say that such-and-such a painter taught them how to see. I could say that of both Bergman and Antonioni.
By the way, if you click on the "view profile" button on this page, you'll see an off-the-top-of-my-head list of my favorite movies which I think should dispel the notion that grim existential stalemates are the only ones I like.Pre-TypePad