Times Have Definitely Changed

In early 1950, the talented actress Ingrid Bergman gave birth to a son.  This seemingly blessed event rocked the entertainment industry and shocked Americans.  Bergman was not married to the father of the child, Roberto Rossellini, and, actually was still married to her first husband Dr. Petter Lindstrom.

The scandal has probably long been forgotten, but the movies that Bergman and Rossellini made together are still considered pioneering works of modern European movies.  These films were recently reissued in a three-set collection, which the library recently purchased. 

The films were not well received when they were released in the early 1950s.  Part of the poor reception by critics and public alike was due to the scandal surrounding Bergman and Rossellini.  Bergman was denounced on the floor of Congress by Senator Edwin C. Johnson; theater owners in twelve states announced they would not show any of their films.  Movie critics were unfavorable in their reviews.  Bosley Crowther, the then chief movie critic for the NYT, called “Stromboli” “feeble, inarticulate, uninspiring and painfully banal.”

Today “Stromboli,” “Europa 51,” and “Journey to Italy” are seen as the films that opened the door to other European masters of the cinema.  Bresson, Bergman, Antonioni, among others, followed Rossellini and learned from him.  He broke the mold of what were considered well-made movies of the time.  Eventually, Bergman won her way back into the graces of the American movie-going public.  Her name is probably more well known today because of other movies she made, but the five movies she made with Rossellini are still considered landmarks in film making history.

Crime and Marilyn Stasio

As a frequent reader of the NYT’s Book Review crime columnist Marilyn Stasio, I have often been curious about her background.  Last week Stasio celebrated her 25th year writing about mystery and crime novels for the NYT.  She took over the column from her predecessor, Newgate Callendar, pen name of Harold C. Schonberg, on September 18, 1988 and has been writing it every since.

Her taste in crime novels has changed over the years.  Early on she had a preference for “well-mannered, very smart detectives.”  She dreaded the moment when she would have to review a hard-boiled mystery.  But she found that she really liked “serial killers, mad dogs, and all that stuff.”

The biggest changes in the crime/mystery writing genre came when American women like Sara Paretsky and Sue Grafton entered the scene.  Plots had to change from rescuing helpless women to other dastardly deeds.  “One year, in three separate books, entire busloads of children were kidnapped.”

Before coming to the Times, she wrote a syndicated review column called “Mystery Alley.”  Editors had no time for this genre and were glad to get it off their hands.  She said she read it all for them.  “They knew nothing, and didn’t care.”  That attitude has definitely changed.  From being a underappreciated and despised genre, mystery writing has become a very respected branch of literature.

“Love Is All You Need”

Although this is billed as a romantic comedy, there are many less than comedic elements in the plot.  Set in Denmark and in Sorrento, Italy, the basic story involves a wedding and the families of the bride and the groom.  The dialogue is both in Danish and English, which makes it less hurried in that you don’t have to be reading subtitles constantly.  The photography of the Italian scenery is beautifully done.

Pierce Brosnan plays an Englishman living in Denmark.  His estranged son is marrying Trine Dyrholm’s daughter at Brosnan’s home in the Sorrento countryside.  Brosnan and Dyrholm do an exceptional job in bringing their characters to life.  This could have easily been a soap-opera kind of film, but the Danish director Susanne Bier was able to make a good movie that is about adults facing their problems and making changes before it is too late.

“Sisterland” by Curtis Sittenfeld

I began to read this months ago and couldn’t stick with it. Recently, I listened to the audio version and was hooked. Twin sisters from the mid-west with ‘somewhat’ psychic ability. One sister, the straighter one (Daisy), does not like having the ‘senses’ and is somewhat scared of it. The other sister (Violet), more bohemian, adopts it as her ‘career’ and ultimately reaches a quick-lived level of fame for predicting a large earthquake to occur in St. Louis.  The plot also concerns friends of Daisy, a married couple, and the stay-at-home dad she befriends. Recommended.