Ingrid Bergman: From Rochester with Love

Posted by on Aug 29 2015 | History, Motion Pictures

Casablanca (Michael Curtiz, US 1942, 102 min., 35mm)

Casablanca (Michael Curtiz, US 1942, 102 min., 35mm)

When Ingrid Bergman first came to the United States in 1939 at the age of 24, she was already a star in her native Sweden and known throughout Europe. The great David O. Selznick, who brought her across the ocean, played it safe, casting Bergman in the English-language remake of her 1936 Swedish hit Intermezzo for her American debut. A mere two years later, and thanks mostly to her performance in the immortal Casablanca (1942), Bergman was Hollywood’s most beloved female star. Unlike most of her peers who exuded a thick air of nobility, inaccessibility, even arrogance, Bergman’s intelligence, warmth, and genuine modesty shone all the way through her physical beauty. She had that rarest beauty that Hollywood professionals at the time would call “bulletproof angles,” referring to the ability to be photographed from any angle while retaining all the allure and near-perfection.

The lightning speed of Bergman’s rise can unfortunately be matched only by the split second in which the American public decided to start ignoring her completely less than a decade later. All because of a single letter—one of the most beautiful letters in film history. In early 1948, Bergman, already an Oscar-winning celebrity, saw Rome, Open City (1945) and Paisan (1946), two masterpieces by founder of the neorealist movement Roberto Rossellini. Dazzled by his unglamorous, truthful, and radically non-Hollywood approach to filmmaking, and by the almost miraculous humanist spirit emerging from the ruins of post-WWII Europe depicted in these two films, Bergman offered herself to the Italian filmmaker in a two-sentence letter:

“Dear Mr. Rossellini, I saw your films Open City and Paisan, and enjoyed them very much. If you need a Swedish actress who speaks English very well, who has not forgotten her German, who is not very understandable in French, and who in Italian knows only ‘ti amo,’ I am ready to come and make a film with you. Ingrid Bergman”

Notorious (Alfred Hitchcock, US 1946, 101 min., 35mm)

Notorious (Alfred Hitchcock, US 1946, 101 min., 35mm)

The rest, as they say, is history. Bergman and Rossellini made five brilliant films together—the most famous being Journey to Italy (1954)—got married, and had three children. The only problem, at least for the morally righteous public at the time, was the fact that Bergman fell in love with Rossellini while she was still married to her first husband, the respected and pioneering Swedish-born neurosurgeon Petter Lindström. And here is where the story of Ingrid Bergman connects with Rochester, making this the second reason for our special retrospective (the first being the fact that Bergman, born on August 29, 1915, would have been one hundred this year). It was at the University of Rochester where Lindström received his degree in 1943, and where Bergman stayed with him and their daughter between shooting. The New York Times reported that Rochesterians loved her just a little bit too much:

“They took a small house in Rochester, N.Y., where he attended medical school. Whenever she was not working on a picture or appearing on the stage, she flew there. There was but one trouble. Her admirers of both sexes ran her and her husband ragged. They could not even go skating without a gallery.”

Join us in September and October at the Dryden Theatre for seven films with Ingrid Bergman:

Saturday, September 12, 8 p.m.:  Spellbound

Sunday, September 13, 2 p.m.: Intermezzo: A Love Story

Saturday, September 19, 8 p.m.: Notorious

Saturday, September 26, 8 p.m.: Under Capricorn

Sunday, September 27, 2 p.m.: Journey to Italy

Sunday, October 11, 2 p.m.: Elena and Her Men

Sunday, October 18, 2 p.m.: A Walk in the Spring Rain

As always, we warmly invite you step away from your tiny, solitary digital screens, and experience our offerings in the way they were meant to be experienced, on the big screen and in all their celluloid glory, with their emotional and intellectual impact preserved.

Only at the Dryden.

 

 

Jurij Meden is the curator of film exhibitions at George Eastman House. Through his more than fifteen years of experience, Jurij has curated and presented film programs around the world, served as a jury member at numerous film festivals, and written or co-written more than 250 published essays.

no comments for now

100 Stairs from the History of Cinema

Posted by on Aug 21 2015 | Behind The Scenes, Exhibitions, History, Motion Pictures, Other

Little more than a month remains in George Eastman House’s exhibition Peter Greenaway—The Stairs: Geneva, the Location (on display until September 20). Now that some time has passed since the show first went up, I’d like to take a moment to convey some thoughts about its execution.

Greenaway intended The Stairs as a decade-long international installation in ten parts, each focusing on a theme related to cinema such as framing, audience, and time. Stairs 1: Geneva dealt with the theme of location. Stairs are uniquely poised to address such a topic, for not only are they pivotal elements in countless classic films, but are fundamental to the shaping and sequencing of space. Just as stairs cut through and segment space, they also bring otherwise disparate spaces together. If this sounds rather cinematic, it is because stairs are especially visual media. (Consider the homophony of “stair” and “stare”.) Of all architectural passages (e.g., doors, hallways, vestibules), stairs are the most conspicuous. We are rarely conscious of the doors or hallways we pass through, but stairs make their presence felt. They can even be spectacles in their own right, to the extent that they become centerpieces of a room. What better evidence of this is there than the films of Hitchcock, Sirk, or Lang?

 Because The Stairs was intended as a reflection on the medium of film on its centenary, Greenaway wanted the number one hundred to operate as a frame tying together the installation’s various components. At the same time, this provided him with the opportunity to expand the purview of the project as a whole, for instance by staging a supplementary exhibit containing one hundred different types of the same object. We saw this as an excellent opportunity to draw a clearer link between the ideas behind Greenaway’s project and the mission of George Eastman House. This is how we came up with the idea for a display consisting of one hundred images of stairs from the history of cinema.

Detail of “100 Stairs from the History of Cinema,” a montage of frame grabs on display as part of the George Eastman House’s exhibition entitled Peter Greenaway—The Stairs: Geneva, the Location.

Detail of “100 Stairs from the History of Cinema,” a montage of frame grabs on display as part of the George Eastman House’s exhibition entitled Peter Greenaway—The Stairs: Geneva, the Location.

Because of their sheer ubiquity, it was not difficult to construct a sizeable collection of film stairs rather quickly. More difficult was the task of condensing that list down to one hundred stairs that function explicitly as “devices for display,” to quote Greenaway himself. My criteria for this was simple enough: the stairs had to occupy a central position in the mise en scène, to the extent that the shot in question would be unthinkable without them. One particularly expressive example of this can be found in the 1939 Technicolor classic Gone With the Wind.

Still from Gone with the Wind (Victor Fleming, US 1939)

Still from Gone with the Wind (Victor Fleming, US 1939)

The staircase is situated precisely in the center of the shot; one cannot even look at this image without looking at stairs. Everywhere around there is darkness, as if the stairs and the woman on them are all that exist in this world. This image attests to what a powerful stage stairs can provide, commanding and directing the viewer’s gaze. I mentioned earlier what a crucial role stairs play with regard to space, and this is no less true in film than it is in life. Consider this image from The Magnificent Ambersons.

Still from The Magnificent Ambersons (Orson Welles, US 1944)

Still from The Magnificent Ambersons (Orson Welles, US 1944)

The spatializing function of stairs in this case is clear right away. Here, we see two figures, each occupying opposite poles of a shot. Even without any familiarity with this film’s plot, we can deduce much from this shot thanks to the mediating role of stairs. The woman is explicitly positioned in a relation of power to the man, if only for the fact that she is located directly above him. But here that point couldn’t be made in a more visually literal sense, since (as with the previous case), image and stairs almost appear as one. Even though we don’t see the stairs themselves, they are as it were everywhere in this image. This notion of stairs as omnipresent and as activating deep space is brought to an even further extreme in this image from The Spiral Staircase, where stairs appear to decenter and consume even the human body.

Sill from The Spiral Staircase (Robert Siodmak, US 194

Sill from The Spiral Staircase (Robert Siodmak, US 1945)

All routes lead to stairs. Look at this shot from Poltergeist:

Still from Poltergeist (Tobe Hooper, US 1982)

Still from Poltergeist (Tobe Hooper, US 1982)

In this image, the stairs are the content and the form, even to the point where they assume a fetish-like quality. Incidentally, this was the most “meta” of all the staircase shots I was able to find in my wild stair chase.

While there can be no doubt that stairs are spatially oriented media, they’re also uniquely temporal. A set of stairs places demands not only on our bodies, but on our time. Stairs take time. This makes them powerful dramatic devices, sites of tension and suspense. Think of how long it takes Norma Desmond to make her descent into final madness in Sunset Boulevard, or for Lord Hidetora to make it down the stairs of his castle to face defeat in Ran.

Still from Sunset Boulevard (Billy Wilder, US 1950)

Still from Sunset Boulevard (Billy Wilder, US 1950)

Still from Ran (Akira Kurosawa, Japan/France 1985)

Still from Ran (Akira Kurosawa, Japan/France 1985)

Elsewhere, in Tsai Ming-Liang’s ravishing video Journey to the West, a man dressed as a monk makes a painfully slow ascent up a flight of stairs. Each step becomes a measure of time. Stairs not only take time, they make it.

Still from Journey to the West (Xi you, Ming-liang Tsai, France/Taiwan 2014)

Still from Journey to the West (Xi you, Ming-liang Tsai, France/Taiwan 2014)

Or consider this shot from Nagisa Oshima’s 1968 film Death by Hanging. The image is extremely powerful: a young man sentenced to hang sits atop a set of stairs, totally enframed by a noose.

Still from Death by Hanging (K?shikei, Nagisa Ôshima, Japan 1968)

Still from Death by Hanging (K?shikei, Nagisa Ôshima, Japan 1968)

In this instance, stairs do not measure a concrete span of time so much as they represent the inevitability of death. Stairs are the very fatedness of an ending.

Of course, I could go on. Each frame from this montage of one hundred images represents a unique instance of “stair-ness” from film history. Each testifies to the diversity and importance of stairs as a subject of cinema, and the affinity that these two media have for one another. But from my perspective, ultimate meaning here lies in the many rather than any single instance. In other words, what finally defines the experience of this display lies in the curious relationships and dialogues that occur between its images. I should point out that we decided to arrange each of these one hundred images in chronological order. This seemed like the best course of action, in large part because we wished not to freeze these images within the frame of a given curatorial commentary. But even without much interpretive intervention on our part, when placed together these one hundred images came alive.

Detail of “100 Stairs from the History of Cinema,” a montage of frame grabs on display as part of the George Eastman House’s exhibition entitled Peter Greenaway—The Stairs: Geneva, the Location.

Detail of “100 Stairs from the History of Cinema,” a montage of frame grabs on display as part of the George Eastman House’s exhibition entitled Peter Greenaway—The Stairs: Geneva, the Location.

Still, we had some room to play. This is because many of the films contained in our list were released during the same year. In some cases, as many as six films shared a year of release, which meant that within a sequence of six or so images we could experiment with various configurations. This allowed us to reveal intriguing formal affinities amongst images, such as the relation between the stills from The Godfather and Rocky below.

Detail of “100 Stairs from the History of Cinema,” a montage of frame grabs on display as part of the George Eastman House’s exhibition entitled Peter Greenaway—The Stairs: Geneva, the Location.

Detail of “100 Stairs from the History of Cinema,” a montage of frame grabs on display as part of the George Eastman House’s exhibition entitled Peter Greenaway—The Stairs: Geneva, the Location.

These images are strikingly similar, but are inverted in a number of important ways. Both men have ascended a set of stairs, their arms now raised up above their heads. And yet, one man is frozen in a moment of triumph, while the other twists into a death pose. One body is heroic and lively, while the other is moribund. There is perhaps no better example than this to sum up my own conception of montage: clash through similarity.

I hope that you take the opportunity to visit our exhibition during its final month to experience Greenaway’s singular vision. While you’re there, I invite you to spend some time with our display of one hundred stairs to notice some of these relationships, and to discover some of your own.

Ryan Conrath is a PhD candidate in Visual and Cultural Studies at the University of Rochester, specializing in film theory and experimental cinema. He is currently a fellow in the Moving Image Department at George Eastman House.

no comments for now

In the Garden Photo-A-Week: The Challenge Continues

Posted by on Jul 08 2015 | contest, Exhibitions, Other, Photography

Each week on Instagram, we’ve been exploring a different theme related to gardens and how humans cultivate the landscape – all inspired by our current exhibition In the Garden. Many followers have tackled the challenge and shared images related to the weekly themes using the hashtags #eastmanhouse and #inthegarden. Here are some highlights from each week so far:

Week 1 (May 4) | Public gardens

A photo posted by Emily Naff (@enaff) on

 

Week 2 (May 11) | Favorite flower

 

Week 3 (May 18) | Human impact on the land

A photo posted by Romy Hosford (@photo_romy) on

 

Week 4 (May 25) | Favorite person in a garden

A photo posted by kayramming (@kayramming) on

 

Week 5 (June 1) | Sunrise/Sunset in a garden

A photo posted by Pete and Billy (@petebilly) on

 

Week 6 (June 8) | Hedgerow

 

Week 7 (June 15) | Bridge in a garden

A photo posted by kimmiiesue (@kimmiiesue) on

 

Week 8 (June 22) | Garden picnic

A photo posted by kayramming (@kayramming) on

 

Week 9 (June 29) | Farm/Cultivated landscape

 

Week 10 (July 6) | Animals in the garden

There’s still plenty of time to join the fun and challenge yourself. Check out the remaining themes-of-the-week below and follow us on Instagram: @eastmanhouse.
Week 10 (July 6) | Animals in the garden
Week 11 (July 13) | Working in a garden
Week 12 (July 20) | Food from a garden
Week 13 (July 27) | Black & white flower/plant
Week 14 (August 3) | Interesting angle
Week 15 (August 10) | Water in a garden
Week 16 (August 17) | Playing in a garden
Week 17 (August 24) | Leaf
Week 18 (August 31) | Garden symmetry
BONUS | George Eastman’s gardens

Tags: ,

Rachel Pikus is the Manager of Online Engagement at George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film.

Comments Off for now

Happy 4th of July!

Posted by on Jul 04 2015 | Motion Pictures, Other

Happy 4th of July from George Eastman House and the Moving Image Stills, Posters, and Paper Collection!

Joan Crawford

Joan Crawford

Nancy Carroll

Nancy Carroll

Colleen Moore

Colleen Moore

Nancy Kauffman is the Archivist for the Stills, Posters and Paper Collections in the Moving Image Department.

Comments Off for now

Beat the Heat: Get Cool, Get Cultured

Posted by on Jul 01 2015 | House & Gardens, Other

unnamed
Looking for a way to beat the heat this summer? Get cool in a museum! George Eastman House, and our neighbor Memorial Art Gallery, are teaming up to offer discounted admission in July and August. At Eastman House, request a coupon at the Admission Desk with your paid or member’s free admission. Present this coupon at Memorial Art Gallery within 14 days,* purchase one admission and receive a second admission free. Memorial Art Gallery visitors heading to Eastman House will receive the same courtesy.

*(Offer good July 1-August 31)

Rachel Pikus is the Manager of Online Engagement at George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film.

Comments Off for now

Next »