Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Times Obit Beat

Way back when, lovers of cuisine would recognize the Times reviewer Mimi Sheraton in restaurants, just as aficionados of theater recognized Clive Barnes and later Frank Rich. Howard Kissel (“Howard Kissel,69, Daily News Critic,” NYT, 2/27/12) was one of those cultural commissars whose face was known to the few--a coterie who he himself seemd to recognize and whose withering glances he begrudgingly acknowledged. Erland Josephson (“Erland Josephson, Actor With Bergman, Dies at 88,” NYT, 2/27/12) was known to a crowd too large for him to acknowledge, though smaller than the one drawn by his fellow Bergman actor Max von Sydow (recently recipient of an Oscar Best Supporting Actor nomination and standout in Hollywood blockbusters like The Exorcist). Scenes From a Marriage was the film for which Josephson gained his notoriety. Josephson also made a name for himself as the director of Sweden's Royal Dramatic Theatre. However it was the Bergman classic that extended his visibility beyond the world of the art house cinema to the extent that the persona he created emblematized many of the conflicts of modern marriage. Bergman was a student of Strindberg. Strindberg discovered marital strife as a theme, in the same momentous way that Columbus discovered America. But Bergman was a student of life as well as art and the character Josephson portrayed was truly liminal, his tortured consciousness extending beyond anything Strindberg could have dreamt of in his philosophy. The Times quoted Josephson as saying about Bergman, “A man obsessed with failure has succeeded better than others in portraying it.” Makes sense.

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