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Queer Bergman

Queer Bergman: Sexuality, Gender, and the European Art Cinema

Daniel Humphrey
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    Queer Bergman
    Book Description:

    One of the twentieth century's most important filmmakers-indeed one of its most important and influential artists-Ingmar Bergman and his films have been examined from almost every possible perspective, including their remarkable portrayals of women and their searing dramatizations of gender dynamics. Curiously however, especially considering the Swedish filmmaker's numerous and intriguing comments on the subject, no study has focused on the undeniably queer characteristics present throughout this nominally straight auteur's body of work; indeed, they have barely been noted.

    Queer Bergmanmakes a bold and convincing argument that Ingmar Bergman's work can best be thought of as profoundly queer in nature. Using persuasive historical evidence, including Bergman's own on-the-record (though stubbornly ignored) remarks alluding to his own homosexual identifications, as well as the discourse of queer theory, Daniel Humphrey brings into focus the director's radical denunciation of heteronormative values, his savage and darkly humorous deconstructions of gender roles, and his work's trenchant, if also deeply conflicted, attacks on homophobically constructed forms of patriarchic authority. Adding an important chapter to the current discourse on GLBT/queer historiography, Humphrey also explores the unaddressed historical connections between post-World War II American queer culture and a concurrently vibrant European art cinema, proving that particular interrelationship to be as profound as the better documented associations between gay men and Hollywood musicals, queer spectators and the horror film, lesbians and gothic fiction, and others.

    eISBN: 978-0-292-74377-9
    Subjects: Film Studies, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. Introduction: Ingmar Bergman and the Foreign Self
    (pp. 1-20)

    Originally published in a fairly mainstream magazine,Film Comment, the late Robin Wood’s “Responsibilities of a Gay Film Critic” justly became a cornerstone text of early GLBT (gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered) cinema studies.¹ It continues to merit attention and respect within the field, despite several paradigm shifts that have seen the emerging discipline challenged (some would say eclipsed) by the distinctly different work begun by queer theorists in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Arguing for the value of what scholars contributing to the latter discourse would define as a queer perspective on the cinema while advocating films with...

  5. Chapter One “Foreign and Refreshing”: The Art Cinema’s Queer Allure
    (pp. 21-58)

    In a 2005 episode of the animated television seriesThe Simpsons, Lisa Simpson wins a set of tickets to a new foreign film by being the first (and only) caller to the local National Public Radio station. Arriving at a foreboding downtown venue called the Limited Appeal Theater, the Simpsons find their city’s art cinema decidedly different from the typical suburban multiplex. Bart, Lisa’s mischievous older brother, comments on this strange new environment as he walks past posters for the current attraction,Kosovo Autumn, and then one for an upcoming feature ominously titledOppenheimer’s Elevator. “Instead of video games, they...

  6. Chapter Two The Cultural Construction of a Cold War Auteur: Discourse and Counterdiscourse
    (pp. 59-104)

    The day after Ingmar Bergman’s death at eighty-nine, on July 30, 2007, an article titled “Five Ways to Think about Bergman as a Genius” appeared on a popular Internet film site. Written by the American screenwriter Larry Gross, whose harrowingWe Don’t Live Here Anymore(2004) suggests the influence of Bergman’s 1970s middle-class dramas, it functions as a typical postmortem celebration. As he concludes, however, Gross attempts to tackle an immense issue in two paragraphs, and he ends his essay on a familiar note of naiveté:

    The world’s post World War II conception of the Scandinavian countries— prosperous, sexy, vaguely liberal...

  7. Chapter Three The Uncanny Undefined
    (pp. 105-132)

    In 1965 in “Tangents,” a long-running tongue-in-cheek column inOnemagazine, there was a short notice exemplifying the connection between Sweden and a reactionary form of gender anxiety. It was printed under a subheading, “Swedish Males Becoming Feminized”:

    “Men, it appears, are taking women’s place as the ‘weaker sex’—at least in Sweden.” So begins a Reuters’ [sic] dispatch published in theLos Angeles Timesfor 7-18-65. The dispatch hastens to explain this statement in terms of a conspicuous decline in the health of Swedish men, and a sharp rise in the death rate for men compared with that for...

  8. Chapter Four Staring Down Gender: “Caught Between the Shame of Looking and the Shame of Being Ashamed to Do So”
    (pp. 133-166)

    In the late 1960s and early 1970s, just as the art-film phenomenon was losing its preeminence as a global cultural force, psychoanalytic spectatorship theory began its ascent in Anglophone film studies. There is no need to offer another comprehensive review of the influential theory’s evolution here. Suffice it to say, its insights remain useful, certainly when the amendments offered over the last forty years by feminist, GLBTQ, and critical-race scholars are acknowledged.¹ Briefly adumbrated, theories of spectatorship concern themselves not with aviewer(a flesh-and-blood filmgoer whose viewing habits can be codified in the kind of statistical analyses favored by...

  9. Conclusion
    (pp. 167-176)

    In the years following the releaseShame, the most recent film addressed in this study, American culture, particularly culture as it regarded and was regarded within the queer American experience, began to change with increasing rapidity. Indeed, at the time ofShame’sU.S. debut, queer moviegoers had a number of other film options offering queer auras of one kind or another to consider. In 1968,The Killing of Sister George,Flesh,The Queen,and Secret Ceremonywere all advertised in the same issue of theNew York Timesthat announcedShame’sAmerican premiere.¹ (Two days later,The Sergeantwould appear as...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 177-202)
  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 203-212)
  12. Index
    (pp. 213-220)