Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Smiles of a Summer Night

Several months ago, TCM had a night of Ingmar Bergman movies programmed, and I was looking forward to doing a full-length post on Smiles of a Summer Night. But then James Garner (I think it was him) died, and TCM came up with a 24-hour tribute that pre-empted the night of Bergman movies. That night has been rescheduled, and the Ingmar Bergman movies are on TCM tonight, starting at 8:00 PM with Smiles of a Summer Night, which is the subject of today's post.

Gunnar Björnstrand plays Fredrik, a successful attorney at the turn of the last century. He's middle-aged with an adult son Henrik (Bjön Bjelvenstam), who was the product of his first marriage. But Fredrik's first wife died some time in the past, and Fredrik has taken a new wife in the form of the very young Anne (Ulla Jacobsson). So far, so good; all of this is normal as life happens. But unfortunately, both of our male protagonists seem to have a problem with sex. Dad, for whatever reason, has never been able to consummate his marriage to his now not-so-new wife, while the son is studying for the priesthood which has apparently left him sexually repressed.

Dad goes off to the theater, where he sees star actress Desiree (Eva Dahlbeck). It turns out that he's been having an affair with Eva, which might have something to do with why he hasn't ben able to consummate his marriage to Anne. And let's just say that things aren't even that simple. Desiree has been having a relationship with Fredrik, but it turns out that he's not the only one. She's also having a relationship with Count Malcolm (Jarl Kulle), and when the Count finds out that another maa is having a dalliance with his Desiree, the Count isn't going to be happy. Not that the Count should have much to complain about, since he's already married to the Countess (Margit Carlqvist) and probably shouldn't be having that affair with Desiree either.

What's a person to do in the face of all these love triangles? Desiree gets a brilliant idea. There's an old country house that the family has owned, and Desiree, realizing that nobody seems to be happy with the the one they're with and would be better off pairiung up with somebody else, invites everybody to that country house, where she'll work on pairing everybody up properly. It sounds daft, but this is where the movie starts to get fun. Fredrik and Henrik come; the Count and Countess arrive, and with the help of a couple of servants we've got enough for four couples, or at least three couples and Desiree. Will everybody wind up with the person most appropriate for them? Shenanigans abound as the various people temporarily couple and decouple on the way to being with whicever partner they'll have at the end.

Smiles of a Summer Night is aa film that can be a lot of fun, although the plot can be a bit complicated to follow what with multiple couples all in states of flux. Thankfully, director Bergman's steady hand guides us through the proceedings, giving us a rewarding journey, and a film that's lovely to look at at times. Although the film starts off a bit slowly, it really picks up, especially once the action hits the country house. It's also lighter than the later Bergman movies that I've seen (although there are several I still haven't seen), so if you've been put off Bergman before, Smiles of a Summer Night might not be a bad place to start.

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