All These Women (Ingmar Bergman, 1964, Sweden)

A still from the Ingmar Bergman film "All These Women".
    All These Women is a curio in Ingmar Bergman’s filmography – an absurdist comedy from a director known for being notoriously dour. The film is certainly one of the worst perceived from the legendary Swedish auteur – film critic Roger Ebert called it the worst film Bergman ever made, and it currently boasts an abysmal 27% on Rotten Tomatoes. It doesn’t fare much better on IMDb, where it currently holds a 5.5 – maybe the lowest score of any of Bergman’s films. No doubt some of the poor critical reception was due to the film’s placement in Bergman’s career. Made immediately after the critically acclaimed and highly serious “Silence of God” trilogy, this color screwball comedy – a self-referential parody of 8 ½ with a Swedish version of Peter Sellers at its center – must have been baffling to critics and audiences alike.

Yet despite its faults, All These Women has its charms. For one, it is beautifully shot. The color cinematography by Sven Nykvist is beautiful. The highly theatrical sets and costume designs are also incredible to behold. Despite its comedic nature, the film bears many of Bergman’s thematic obsession – most notably the artist and his or her role in society. In the film we have a stand-in for the artist with the famous cellist Felix (who is never seen). Jarl Kulle plays Cornelius, a musical critic who is planning to write a biography of Felix. Kulle’s performance is pure farce, sometimes alienatingly so. Kulle becomes involved with one of Felix’s mistresses, and soon uncovers a plot to murder Felix. Some of the dialogue is Bergmanesque, but at other times the film feels more like The Pink Panther – pure silliness. At only 80 minutes, the film does not overstay its welcome. Worth checking out for diehard Bergman fans, but less so for casual filmgoers.

6/10

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