erik lundegaard


Tuesday December 29, 2020

Al Milgrom (1922-2020)

In his element.

Because of Al Milgrom I saw the following movies:

  • My Life as a Dog
  • 28 Up
  • She's Gotta Have It
  • When Father Was Away on Business
  • Come and See
  • The Tree of Wooden Clogs

They were all playing in the mid-1980s at the University Film Society, for which I volunteered every Thursday night when I was a student at the University of Minnesota. Al, who founded the U Film Society in the early 1960s, died last week at the age of 98, after suffering a stroke. 

For selling/taking tickets at the Society, and keeping all the Bergman fans from getting too unruly, volunteers got to see the movies for free. If it wasn't too busy, I might watch them that night. That is, my colleague Adam L. would let me slip in as the movie started or I'd do the same for him. You could let a certain number of friends in for free, too. I seem to recall doing this with a girl I had a crush on. She was wth her boyfriend. That's how I rolled.

For all the ways he expanded my cinematic vision, I think I only saw Al a few times. He was a breeze blowing by, ever busy, but he knew me because I was the son of the movie critic for the Star-Tribune—a man who liked the movies that Al liked, and that the U Film Society exhibited. After Dad retired, he'd run into Al every so often. Late in life, Al became a documentary filmmaker, self-styled as “the world's oldest emerging filmmaker,” and he asked Dad to be a talking head for a doc about the 1970 Dinkytown riots. Al did one on Minnesota poet John Berryman, too, and only at the premiere found out Dad had been a longtime friend. He then wanted to interview Dad about Berryman—for the DVD or a recut?—and I was instructed to send along digitized photos we had of Berryman in our backyard. Don't know if anything came of that. He had a lot of plate spinning.

Something else he had in common with my father? He was also another Minnesotan name-checked by the Coens. In “Inside Llewyn Davis,” Adam Driver's character's real name is Al Milgrom. The two of them and Ron Meshbesher should've formed a club. 

After I graduated, I spent a year in Taiwan, where, among other things, I became a fan of Jackie Chan movies. One day, back on the U of M campus, I saw a flyer for an upcoming U Film Society feature: Jackie Chan's “Miracles.” That made me smile. I couldn't get ahead of him. Dad has his own story about Al Milgrom and flyers. He was walking with him once, possibly for an article, when Al suddenly stopped at a telephone pole covered in flyers and ripped one of them down. It was blocking his.

Posted at 08:07 AM on Tuesday December 29, 2020 in category Movies