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Historic Bergman Festival Ready -- With or Without Bergman

Cinematic legends will discuss his craft, thousands will see his masterpieces, even Swedish royalty will honor his name. Everybody who is anybody will be drawn to New York this summer for a festival celebrating Ingmar Bergman.

Everybody, that is, but the shy, travel-loathing Bergman.

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''We're hoping he'll decide even on the last day to take an airplane over. We can only hope,'' says longtime colleague Lars Lofgren, director of Sweden's Royal Dramatic Theater.

The $2 million festival -- nearly two years in planning by both Swedes and Americans -- may be the biggest celebration ever of one director's work.

The Brooklyn Academy of Music in New York is organizing the festival. The Film Society of Lincoln Center, the Museum of Modern Art, and public-television station WNET are also participating.

Some 350 events dedicated to the director's creations will be performed, broadcast, and convened beginning May 5 and lasting through September. All his films will be shown, from obscure TV dramas never before seen in America, to the acclaimed ''The Seventh Seal,'' ''Cries and Whispers,'' and ''Fanny and Alexander.''

Colleagues and admirers, including authors Derek Walcott and Deborah Tannen, and cinematographer Sven Nykvist, will hold court on Bergman's philosophy and cinematic style.

Woody Allen and actor Max von Sydow contributed to a book about Bergman being published for the occasion. Sweden's Queen Silvia and King Carl XVI Gustaf will attend a Bergman gala on May 31.

Bergman's style has been analyzed, criticized, praised, and mimicked. With Nykvist, he pioneered the lingering, probing closeup of faces or hands now copied by others.

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In 1982, Bergman left film behind -- his last was ''Fanny and Alexander'' -- and returned to the Royal Dramatic Theater. The transition brought a personal realization.

''At times he had the feeling, especially after [staging] 'Hamlet,' that one project should be his last,'' says Lofgren, director of the theater where Bergman is now based. ''But now he has dropped this idea that he has to retire at a certain age.'' Bergman is happy, Lofgren says, to keep working.

And working hard. His versions of Moliere's ''Misanthrope'' and Shakespeare's ''Winter's Tale'' are now playing to raves in Stockholm. Bergman is also planning a series of Greek plays.

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