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Watch: Olivier Assayas Discusses Ingmar Bergman’s ‘Absurdly Important’ Persona

Olivier Assayas speaks eloquently about his own work, able to talk about them both abstractly and practically. No surprise, then, that he’s as sharp when talking about other filmmakers’ films. A new video from TIFF finds the acclaimed French filmmaker — most recently of Non Fiction, Personal Shopper and Clouds of Sils Maria, and whose 1994 classic Cold Water was reissued earlier this year — talking Ingmar Bergman. Specifically he discusses Persona, the Swedish legend’s game-changing 1966 whatzit, about a caretaker (Bibi Andersson) tending to a damaged actress (Liv Ullmann).

Bergman, according to Assayas, showed “that you could be both a great writer and a great filmmaker, meaning you could have the skills of a director and also be one of the great writers of your time.” He also says Bergman, especially with Persona, “reinvented filmmaking”; surely any art house mindfuck, from Robert Altman’s 3 Women to the entire oeuvre of David Lynch, would have been impossible without it. Assayas points out one thing about the film that is rarely discussed: It’s not only a simple film but also “not expensive to make,” with its spartan cast and minimal locations. With precious few resources, Bergman was able to make a film that boldly reimagined what a movie even is, and how it can speak to real world horrors. That level of “urgency,” Assayas laments, doesn’t really happen anymore.

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