STOCKHOLM: Swedish film director Ingmar Bergman, widely regarded as one of the great masters of modern cinema, died on Monday at age 89.

Bergman, whose 1982 film Fanny and Alexander won an Oscar for best foreign film, made about 60 movies before retiring from film making in 2003.

His cinematic vision encompassed all the extremes of his beloved Sweden: the claustrophobic gloom of unending winter nights, the gentle merriment of glowing summer evenings and the bleak magnificence of the island where he spent his last years.

“He was one of the great masters and one of the great humanists of cinema. There are very few people of that kind of stature today. He proved that cinema could be an art form,” said Nick James, editor of Sight & Sound, the magazine of the British Film Institute.

“The passing of Bergman comes at a time when cinema is valued more as an entertainment idiom than an art form. It would be good if there were more film makers around with his level of artistic ambition.”

Bergman approached difficult subjects such as plague and madness with inventive technique and carefully honed writing, became one of the towering figures of serious film making.

He was “probably the greatest film artist, all things considered, since the invention of the motion picture camera,” Woody Allen said in a 70th birthday tribute in 1988.

Bergman first gained international attention with Smiles of a Summer Night (1955), a romantic comedy that inspired the Stephen Sondheim musical ‘A Little Night Music.’

His last work was Saraband, a made-for-television movie that aired on Swedish public television in December 2003. — AP

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