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smiles of a summer nightKing of despondency and emotional turmoil Ingmar Bergman helped make a name for himself with a light hearted comedy.  Bergman crafts “Smiles of a Summer Night” in the style of an old fashioned Hollywood farce, but doesn’t have to adhere to the restrictive codes of old school cinema.  Bergman’s movie freely deals in issues of sex, infidelity, illegitimate children, so on and so forth without having to be sly or negligent about matters. It doesn’t sound like light material but Bergman turns it into a Shakespearean comedy styled affair. “Smiles” is a charming tale of mismatched lovers destined to wind up with the person who suits them best, no matter how hard they try to mess themselves up.

Bergman favorite Gunner Bjornstein plays an older lawyer, Fredrik, married to woman far too young for him. He adores her in every way imaginable but can’t bring himself to consummate their marriage. Futzing up his feelings are lingering emotions for ex-girlfriend and acclaimed actress Eva (Desire Armfeldt). His gloomy son Henrik further complicates matters with his constant, dour piety and unresolved feelings towards his similar aged mother-in-law.  Eva is also involved with the militant Count Malcolm, a man who can tolerate advances towards his wife but not his mistress.  Or is that vice versa?  Free spirited house hand Petra also confuses matters with her unerring vivacity, and swaying walk, towards Henrik.  She ultimately falls into a great pairing with a ribald country hand, with the two becoming our chorus, and the story plays out in endearing fashion.   Though serious in places in which Bergman cannot control his darker tendencies, the film is mostly a light and romantic affair.  It would be a great film for those not accustomed to foreign cinema to take a stab at.  With it’s endless charm, great performances and recognizable structure, the film feels more like a lost movie of Billy Wilder dubbed into another language than an intimidating European art film.

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