For Bergman fans, tonight’s the night

When director/screenwriter Ingmar Bergman died in 2007, John Simon took to the pages of the Weekly Standard to declare him “Cinema’s Shakespeare.” Writing about Bergman in the context of his favorite films, Simon had celebrated the qualities he found: the “adultness,” the “seriousness,” the “sense of tragedy but also of mirth” characteristic of “great works of art…though they go about achieving it in different ways.”

Some of Bergman’s “different ways” of achieving it will be on display tonight when the Turner Classic Movies cable channel airs a mini Bergman festival. It starts at 8:00 p.m. (Eastern) with Smiles of a Summer Night and continues overnight. Smiles is to be followed by Wild Strawberries and The Seventh Seal. Then comes the bleak trilogy filmed with cinematographer Sven Nykvist and Bergman’s great cast of regulars: Through a Glass Darkly, Winter Light, and The Silence.

TCM had these films programmed to run this past summer when the death of James Garner prompted a tribute that displaced them. I’d been hoping TCM would get around to rescheduling them some time soon and do something to let disappointed viewers know about it. (Looking at a TCM message board, I see I’m not the only one.) These films leave much of Bergman to be discovered and enjoyed; they only intimate Bergman’s range. Nevertheless, if you’ve been waiting for a chance to reacquaint yourself with these films, or might be interested in checking them out, tonight’s the night.

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