Monday, March 09, 2020

RIP Max von Sydow

My top Max von Sydow films, quickly before I have to leave for work:

1. Joubert, Three Days of the Condor: a dispassionate European hitman who goes from enemy to (sort of) ally of the main character simply because his employer changes, while he himself undergoes no change of heart whatsoever. Probably the first film I ever saw him in, as a kid watching late night TV in the 1970's. 

2. Dr. Paul Novotny, Dreamscape: a silly but very entertaining SF movie about warring psychics, it was lent added amusement value because I first saw it around the time that Max was in competition for an Oscar with Christopher Plummer, who plays a bad guy. You can see that von Sydow is having fun with the role.

3. Mortenhoe, Death Watch: a moving, character-driven SF film about surveillance and the responsibilities of image-making, with a hell of a cast, also including Romy Schneider, Harvey Keitel, and Harry Dean Stanton (and an early role for Robbie Coltrane).  

4. Andreas Winkelman, A Passion, aka The Passion of Anna: the English language title makes no sense, since the film is using the term "a passion" in the sense of "a passion play," showing a sort of everyday crucifixion, and it is not Anna, in the film, who gets crucified: it is a figurative crucifixion, and it happens to von Sydow's character, Winkelman. Bergman wears his sadism on his sleeve in this, tortures his characters somewhat gleefully, and even casts one Erland Josephson to represent him within the film, so he can be cruel to a depiction of himself, as well. I used to love this film, especially if I was home alone and having a drink. Not sure how I'd feel about it now - haven't been in the mood for Bergman in years, and think I would find it pretentiously self-pitying - but von Sydow is great in it! 

...after that it gets difficult. I really like the first twenty minutes or so of The Exorcist, where Max squares off with Pazuzu in Iraq, but find the film ultimately silly in a bad way. I sometimes watch the first twenty minutes or so then shut it off. I loved von Sydow in The Virgin Spring, Bergman's adaptation of a Swedish folktale that ended up inspiring The Last House on the Left. I really liked von Sydow in The Quiller Memorandum and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close and Pelle the Conqueror, too. Didn't care much about a lot of the films he was in later in his career but enjoyed watching him in them. 

Rest in peace, Max von Sydow!

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