RETROSPECTIVE CHANTAL AKERMAN
Chantal Akerman is one of the seminal figures of modernist cinema. She has also denied a feminist affiliation, refusing to consider cinema and women in terms of theoretic categories and movements, but her films are doubtlessly distinctly marked by an ardent preoccupation with female geographies in all their forms. Her feminism is radical precisely due to the absence of feminist politics, to the sheer simplicity of being no more than a woman making films.
Our retrospective only covers this filmmaker’s major phases and films: whether it’s her first short-films, her debut feature and her most known films, or her later documentaries. In “Blow Up My Town,” Akerman shuts herself off in a kitchen, to then systematically dismantle the entire myth of domestic order, breaking some dishes and pans to smithereens, a teenager’s game that is both candid and rebellious against so-called “normality.” By the same token, “Je, tu, il, elle” is one of the most accomplished chronicles of the age of explorations, in which the tribulations of boredom are minutely wrapped inside the effortless minimalist structure of the mise en scčne, in glimpses of abodes and of loneliness the director ambles through. “Jeanne Dielman…” is a masterpiece encompassing all these elements, laying bare, with painstaking patience, the cruelest domestic mechanisms in which a woman can be trapped. A woman whose matrix is no other than the mother figure, whom we meet with again, through the years, with undying candour in “No Home Movie.”
However, aside from the these nuclei of femininity, just as remarkable is their reflection in the world around, in the way that, with each of her films, the filmmaker develops a penchant for the slow scanning of spaces, even when she ventures out of her comfort zone of familiar interiors. For example, in “News From Home,” the letters from home, read in one breath, meld with the uproarious hustle and bustle of New York and with the urban ‘70s landscape, while in “Down There” the director plays a game of Hide and Seek between herself and the outside world, in a simple gesture of filming it from the window of a flat in Tel Aviv. All this is shadowed by her turning her gaze inwards, in a rumination on her origins and the demon of depression and suicide. Still, the most compelling act of immersion into the organicity of spaces takes place in Akerman’s journey “East,” along the former Iron Curtain, along the ghostly skeleton of transitions and among its inhabitants, who are waving to the viewers of the future. “From the Other Side” and “South” describe even deeper minefields, spaces where personal troubles are drowned in the historical deluge of social injustices (intolerance, hatred, racism, etc.); whether we reach the South of the United States or the Mexican-American border, various ethnic conflicts come to surface, which, though age-old, smoulder still in the cinders.
All in all, the worlds of her films are well worth exploring. And, to boot, they are worth exploring in the presence of Claire Atherton, Akerman’s editor and closest collaborator from the last decades. Her films wouldn’t have been the same without the contribution of Claire Atherton’s, whose coming to Bucharest will bring us closer to Chantal Akerman, as a colossal figure of cinema in the latter half of the 20th century.