Ingmar Bergman’s Cinema
Disc 18, Sawdust and Tinsel / The Rite
In honor of Ingmar Bergman’s one-hundredth birthday, the Criterion Collection is proud to present the most comprehensive collection of his films ever released on home video. One of the most revelatory voices to emerge from the postwar explosion of international art-house cinema, Bergman was a master storyteller who startled the world with his stark intensity and naked pursuit of the most profound metaphysical and spiritual questions. The struggles of faith and morality, the nature of dreams, and the agonies and ecstasies of human relationships—Bergman explored these subjects in films ranging from comedies whose lightness and complexity belie their brooding hearts to groundbreaking formal experiments and excruciatingly intimate explorations of family life.
Arranged as a film festival with opening and closing nights bookending double features and centerpieces, this selection spans six decades and thirty-nine films—including such celebrated classics as The Seventh Seal, Persona, and Fanny and Alexander alongside previously unavailable works like Dreams, The Rite, and Brink of Life. Accompanied by a 248-page book with essays on each program, as well as by more than thirty hours of supplemental features, Ingmar Bergman’s Cinema traces themes and images across Bergman’s career, blazing trails through the master’s unequaled body of work for longtime fans and newcomers alike.
Disc 18 of Criterion’s box set Ingmar Bergman’s Cinema presents two more films from the master: Sawdust and Tinsel and The Rite. Both films share the same dual-layer disc and are each presented in the aspect ratio of 1.37:1. Both films have also received new 2K restorations, each sourced from the 35mm original camera negative.
The presentation for Sawdust and Tinsel looks the same as what was available on the individual Blu-ray edition. I’ll just quote from that review here:
[In comparison to the old DVD, this Blu-ray offers] a far sharper, more film-like presentation, delivering far better clarity and detail, far better grain rendering, and significantly improved gray levels. Contrast looked a little off on the old DVD, but it seems better balanced here, delivering nicer grays and blacks. The opening flashback still looks to be boosted, but it still seems to be intentional and it doesn’t look as extreme as what was found on the DVD, where the image ended up being so blown out it was hard to see.
The restoration is also far better. A few marks can still pop up on the edges of the screen in places but on the whole it’s still a significant improvement over what was on the old DVD, which wasn’t that bad to begin with. The image is also far more stable, lacking the frame jumps and pulsing that presented itself on the DVD[…]
An impressive upgrade over the old DVD for sure, but The Rite ends up outshining it by far, and may be one of the best looking presentations in the set (so far)! The image is unbelievably crisp and clean, razor-sharp throughout, rendering grain near perfectly. I also don’t recall any blemishes of any sort ever popping. Blacks and whites are also rendered wonderfully and grayscale looks perfect, with perfect gradients. It’s a very photographic image and not what I was expecting for a film I would have expected to have received less love than some other titles.
Sawdust and Tinsel (1953): 8/10 The Rite (1969): 9/10
Both films are presented in Swedish 1.0 linear PCM. Of the two Sawdust and Tinsel is the weaker sounding one, with dialogue being flatter in comparison to The Rite, showing its age a bit more. Range and fidelity come off better in The Rite, and dialogue is a little more robust, but it’s limited primarily by the fact it’s a very talky film, music and other sound effects rarely coming into play.
The Rite doesn’t come with any features on the disc but Criterion does, at the very least, carry over all of the on-disc features from Sawdust and Tinsel. Peter Cowie’s audio commentary, recorded originally for their DVD edition in 2007, is the big one to be found here. Cowie begins things off by proclaiming it’s a very big deal that Criterion is releasing this film since the film was so hard to come by prior to this release. He talks about the title and why Criterion chose it (Criterion is apparently using the UK title, as the American title, The Naked Night, was only used to market the film more as a “sexploitation” picture), and from there talks about it’s release history and how it fits into Bergman’s filmography, pointing out themes that would become common throughout his work, and talks about his theater work played into this film. I always enjoy Cowie’s tracks for Bergman’s films and this is another good one to throw in with the others.
The disc also presents a 3-minute introduction featuring Bergman, taken from a series of introductions filmed by director Marie Nyreröd back in 2003 and used to introduce his films on television. Here Bergman talks about his fondness for the film and his initial disappointment at how poorly received it was when originally released.
The 247-page book does also contain an essay on both films, written by Wesley Brown, connecting the film through Bergman’s experience in theater. There is also a side-bar excerpt by Bergman explaining the origins behind Sawdust and Tinsel. Criterion does not carry over John Simon’s essay on the film found in the individual DVD and Blu-ray editions, while also don’t carry over filmmaker Catherine Breillat’s 2003 appreciation of Sawdust and Tinsel, which was included in the DVD’s booklet. Outside of the Brown essay, there is nothing else about The Rite in the book.
Some material about The Rite would have been welcome, but I still rather like Cowie’s commentary for Sawdust and Tinsel and am glad that was at least carried over.
Again, Criterion leaves out material around another film (The Rite) but carry over most of the supplements from a title they have previously released, Sawdust and Tinsel. The presentations are both solid, with The Rite’s being another wonderful stand-out in the set.