From the Chicago Reader (January 1, 1996). My capsule here doesn’t really do justice to this masterpiece, one of Bergman’s absolute achievements. — J.R.
A major early feature by Ingmar Bergman, also known as The Naked Night (though the Swedish title apparently means The Clown’s Night). This 1953 film is perhaps the most German expressionist of Bergman’s 50s works, as redolent of sexual cruelty and angst as Variety and The Blue Angel, but no less impressive for all that. The aging owner of a small traveling circus who left his wife for a young performer in his troupe tries to regain his lost family. Visually splendid, but you may find the masochistic plot pretty unpleasant. With Ake Gronberg and Harriet Andersson. In Swedish with subtitles. 92 min. (JR)
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From the Chicago Reader (April 1, 1996). — J.R.
A profoundly sexist and eminently hummable 1954 CinemaScope musical — supposedly set in the great outdoors, but mainly filmed on soundstages — with some terrific athletic Michael Kidd choreography and some better-than-average direction by Stanley Donen. Based on a story by Stephen Vincent Benet (who took the plot from the rape of the Sabine women), it concerns six fur-trapping brothers who go to town to find wives after big brother Howard Keel marries Jane Powell; they wind up kidnapping them. A fascinating glimpse at the kind of patriarchal rape fantasies that were considered cute and good-natured at the time, performed to the music of Johnny Mercer and Gene DePaul. With Russ Tamblyn, Virginia Gibson, and Tommy Rall. 103 min. (JR)
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