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Chantal Akerman


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For the longest time, the only Akerman films I'd seen were the two available on R1 DVD, The Captive (2000) and Tomorrow We Move (2004), neither of which gave me a real sense of why she's such a respected filmmaker. Over the last year, Criterion has released her most lauded film, Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (1975), and a collection of several of the other films she made in the early- to mid-'70s. I'm a convert. These are unbelievably great films. They're like the templates for what some of us call the "contemplative" style in contemporary world cinema -- long duration shots, static cameras (when they're not tracking slowly), expressionless faces, etc. And she made them all in her early 20s!

I've posted the first of what I hope will be a regular series of essays at mubi.com (formerly The Auteurs). The subject of the first entry is my favorite of the early Akerman films, Les rendez-vous d'Anna. Next time we update the Top 100, Anna is my first new nomination.

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FWIW, we seem to have a thread on Akerman already, here. But it was created six years ago and seems to have nothing of substance beyond a dead link or two.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Does Jeanne Dielman "feel" like it's 3-and-half hours long? From some of the descriptions I've read, I'm not sure I'd make it through the whole thing. And as a barometer, Tarkovsky is my favorite director.

It's the side effects that save us.
--The National, "Graceless"
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Jeanne Dielman was probably my favorite viewing experience of 2009, so, no, it certainly didn't feel long to me. I mean, this is one of those cases where the duration of shots and the repetition of action is essential. The film is kind of pointless without it. Find a day on your calendar when you can set aside the time, and enjoy yourself. (Well, "enjoy" might not be quite the right word, but it's an amazing film.)

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Good start to the series, Darren. Will you tackle D'est?

"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

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Darren, would you say Les rendezvous d'Anna is the best place to start with Akerman? I'm interested, and I definitely would like to try this since I know you're going to nominate it anyway. But would it benefit me to actually start there or somewhere else first?

In an interstellar burst, I am back to save the Universe.

Filmsweep by Persona. 2013 Film Journal. IlPersona.

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Coolio, I will check it out.

In an interstellar burst, I am back to save the Universe.

Filmsweep by Persona. 2013 Film Journal. IlPersona.

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If you're up for it, I'd watch the Criterion releases in order. Anna is, imo, the culmination of the work she'd done up until that point, so I think it's a more interesting film within that context.

Can you be more specific? I went for Jeanne Dielman, but now I am second guessing myself.

In an interstellar burst, I am back to save the Universe.

Filmsweep by Persona. 2013 Film Journal. IlPersona.

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Oh, tres cool, I get to start with a short. That is a good introduction.

In an interstellar burst, I am back to save the Universe.

Filmsweep by Persona. 2013 Film Journal. IlPersona.

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  • 2 years later...

Wow.

I just saw Jeanne Dielman.

I'm not sure I've ever seen as successful and single-minded a formal exercise as Akerman accomplishes in this film. The sheer repetitiveness of the mundane actions, the static camera, and the claustrophobic framing create a remarkable visual sensibility that shifts so meaningfully mid-film. This approach imbues every action (or non-action) with meaning, ending with a devastating critique on the lifeless, isolated, and auto-pilot existence of the modern world.

Thanks for the encouragement to see this that you offered in this thread, Darren. Even if it took me three years, I'm appreciative. This is a must-see.

All great art is pared down to the essential.
--Henri Langlois

 

Movies are not barium enemas, you're not supposed to get them over with as quickly as possible.

--James Gray

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  • 7 years later...

BAM is a good source for film screening during pandemic: https://www.bam.org/programs/2020/bamfilm

They are screening restoration of From the East:

 


Chantal Akerman's

FROM THE EAST (D'EST)
Brand new restoration premieres exclusively at BAM

A brand new restoration of Chantal Akerman's From the East (D'Est) (1993) premieres exclusively at BAM. Tickets are $10 for a one-week viewing period. The film has been newly restored by the Cinematek Royal Film Archive of Belgium.

Visit BAMcinematek's virtual theatrical page here:
https://vimeo.com/ondemand/fromtheeastatbam.

"We're delighted to be working with Icarus Films to present this beautiful restoration of an extraordinarily empathetic work by one of the great filmmakers," said Ashley Clark, Director of Film Programming at BAM.

This is one of 10 films by and about Chantal Akerman released by Icarus Films, whose collection includes No Home Movie (2015), Down There (2006), From the Other Side (2002) and South (1999).
 

About the Film

Traveling from the end of summer to deepest winter, from East Germany to Moscow, Chantal Akerman captures the sounds and images that touched her, following the thread of her subjective crossing. Without dialogue or commentary, From the East (D'Est) is an essential cinematic journey.
 

 

 

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