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Smiles of a Summer Night (Criterion) (Blu-Ray)
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After fifteen films that received mostly local acclaim, the 1955 comedy Smiles of a Summer Night (Sommarnattens leende) at last ushered in an international audience for Ingmar Bergman (The Seventh Seal, Wild Strawberries). In turn-of-the-century Sweden, four men and four women of different classes attempt to navigate the laws of attraction. During a weekend in the country, the women collude to force the men’s hands in matters of the heart, exposing their pretensions and insecurities along the way. Chock-full of flirtatious propositions and sharp witticisms delivered by such Swedish screen legends as Gunnar Björnstrand (The Seventh Seal, Winter Light) and Harriet Andersson (Through a Glass Darkly, Cries and Whispers), Smiles of a Summer Night is one of cinema’s great erotic comedies.
BLU-RAY SPECIAL EDITION FEATURES
• Digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack
• Video introduction to the film by director Ingmar Bergman
• Video conversation between Bergman scholar Peter Cowie and writer Jörn Donner, executive producer of Fanny and Alexander
• Original theatrical trailer
• PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by theater and film critic John Simon and a 1961 review by film critic Pauline Kael
Ingmar Bergman achieved international stardom with this classic melancholy comedy about the romantic entanglements of three 19th-century couples during a weekend at a country estate. It's exactly what you'd expect from a bedroom farce filtered through the ideas and eyes of Bergman: sharp, serious, pensive, austerely sexy, and ultimately sobering. Still, anyone who thought the Swedish filmmaker was incapable of a little fun has only to watch Bergman's orchestrations of these dangerous liaisons. Prosperous lawyer Fredrik (Gunnar Björnstrand) is married to the comely young Anne (Ulla Jacobsson), who (despite his best efforts) remains a virgin. Henrik (Björn Bjelfvenstam), Fredrik's grown son from a previous marriage, is desperately in love with Anne--and having an affair with the maid (Harriet Andersson)--despite the torturings of his pious soul. When actress Desiree (Eva Dahlbeck), Fredrik's former mistress, breezes into town, Fredrick pays her a visit, only to find himself jealous of her relationship with the piggish Count Malcolm (Jarl Kulle), who just happens to be married to Anne's best friend, the depressed and suicidal Charlotte (Margit Carlqvist); both women have a decided bone to pick with Desiree. All convene at the estate of Desiree's mother for a weekend of confrontations, illicit romance, dinner, dueling, and eventual pairing with the right romantic partner. Bergman winningly conveys the aspects of love among both the young and the old--those who feel they'll live forever and those whose impending mortality colors their actions. Absolutely brilliant and heartfelt, a true cinematic masterpiece. The basis for Stephen Sondheim's A Little Night Music, of "Send in the Clowns" fame. --Mark Englehart --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
Although a marvelous achievement in its own right, this matchless comedy of manners, "Smiles Of A Summer Night" stands out as a landmark, recognized by many as such during the past 50 years. Most recently it made the All-TIMES 100 list of best films compiled by renowned film critics Corliss and Schickel for Times Magasine.
As late as in an interview recorded in 2003, Ingmar Bergman agreed to call "Smiles Of A Summer Night" a watershed in his film career. "After its success", he recalled "I had my hands free... I was able to do whatever I wanted to do." Truly enough, he went on to make, in immediate succession, such great films like "The Seventh Seal" and "Wild Strawberries".
And it was only the beginning of what best can be described as Bergmansk phenomenon. "The Virgin Spring", Through A Glass Darkly", "Persona", "Cries and Whispers", "Autumn Sonata", "Fanny and Alexander". One true classic after the other was bestowed upon us by this undisputed grandmaster of the world cinema during the course of his rich, fruitful career.
With superb acting, lively dialog and impeccable cinematography, "Smiles" leaves nothing to be desired. It seems to be a happy story, at least from the audience's point of view.
Still, the director recalls, in his published memoirs, how depressed he was being stuck with the script, how bad he felt during production, and how embarrassed he was to find out about film's great success at Cannes, where it won the Grand Prix. All this was unprecedented for the producers, the Svensk Filmindustri as they responded "like an old lady who never knew to waltz, now suddenly being asked by a variety of cavaliers", to quote Bergman.
Fredrik Egerman (Gunnar Björnstrand), a successful middle-aged lawyer and former widower, has remarried with Anne (Ulla Jacobsson) who is at least twenty years younger than him. Fredrik's son, Henrik (Björn Bjelfvenstam), from his previous marriage, is of the same age as Anne and has recently arrived home from completing his theological examinations. Petra, the family maid, flirts with Henrik as he expresses his liking for the opposite sex. As a consequence, Henrik is struggling with an overwhelming inner guilt originating from his incapability to live by his lofty values stemming from his Christian faith. In addition, the prominent actress Desiree Armfeldt (Eva Dahlbeck), a previous lover to Fredrik, is performing at the town theater. Fredrik makes nightly visit to Desiree which puts him in harms way as Desiree's current lover, Carl Magnus (Jarl Kulle), a military officer known for his success in duels visits at the same time. However, this is just the beginning for all the predicaments that Fredrik is about to experience.
Smiles of a Summer Night is a well-written comedy with several subplots that drive the main theme, love, forward as it displays Bergman's wide range of story telling. Bergman displays a simple story which becomes complex as the characters are continually dishonest.Read more ›
A famous actress with two very different lovers invites both, their wives, and the son of one lover to her mother's country estate in the hope of sorting out the romantic entanglements to her satisfaction--and the result is considerable charm and unexpectedly dry wit. All the performances are excellent, with Eva Dahlbeck's Desiree a standout, but the real star of this ensemble piece is the unexpectedly witty script. Never quite veering over into broad farce but never sinking into romantic sentimentality, it is a very precisely written tale, and both cast and director make the most of it.
In the face of Bergman's later work, SMILES OF A SUMMER NIGHT may seem rather slight, and indeed both psychology and cinematography is considerably less complex than one expects. Even so, it is very much a Bergman film: the visual style is distinct, and the themes of appearances vs. reality, the inability to correctly interpret another's behavior, and the failure to understand one's self are very much in evidence--only here to comic effect. It is in every way a charming film that Bergman fans will enjoy.
Incidently, SMILES OF A SUMMER NIGHT was successfully translated to the stage as the musical A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC, the score of which includes the famous "Send In The Clowns." Fans of the original film will be interested to compare the two works.
Most recent customer reviews
Because it is not film-specific this isn't a review in the usual sense, though it is very much an endorsement. Read morePublished 14 months ago by Mark Kennedy
A bunch of upper class folk spend a weekend together at a country
house. Lots of bed hopping, betrayal, male macho posturing, and female
manipulation ensues. Read more
There is humor, English humor and (apparently) Swedish humor (Bergman's humor to be more precise). It's true that compared with other Bergman's movies (where there is always... Read morePublished on Aug. 13 2006 by E. Kozlov
This film is perfect -- comedy, drama, you name it. Performances are all tight and Bergman weaves a marvelous tale of how people make fools of themselves at almost all times. Read morePublished on July 19 2004
The first time I saw "Smiles of a Summer Night" I thought is was an OK film, nothing more, nothing less. Read morePublished on May 28 2004 by Alex Udvary
I agree that this is not a comedy.And it is not an "easy-to-watch-Bergman" movie.It's get better after a couple times,and it's rewarding like every other Bergman film. Read morePublished on May 23 2004
Smiles of a Summer Night it's not one of my Top 10 Bergmans,but it's a fine example of 50's European cinema.Bergman said : "a mixture of operetta and comedy". Read morePublished on May 18 2004
If you're a fan of Bergman's works about psychological abuse, personal disaster and disintegrating relationships, this film is definitely not for you. Read morePublished on May 7 2004