The Cinema Of Chantal Akerman: Time, Borders, Politics

Date Film Time
4/6 Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles 7 pm
4/13 No Home Movie w/ Saute ma ville 7 pm
4/20 D'Est (From the East) 7 pm
4/27 De l'autre côte (From the Other Side) 7 pm
4/28 Symposium 2 pm

Chantal Akerman died in October 2015 at the age of sixty-five, leaving behind a body of work that spans five decades and stands as one of the most significant contributions to modern cinema. Positioned in between fiction and documentary, Akerman’s films give visibility to those people and places that our culture overlooks or relegates to the margins because of gender, race, or age; or simply because they have found themselves on the wrong side of history. From Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles—widely regarded as the most important feminist film of the seventies—to No Home Movie, Akerman’s films offer us scenes of unique beauty and formal discipline, indeed a new, sensuous way of thinking about the complexity of ordinary experience. Labor, love, travel, migration—no aspect of life is immune to the workings of power and yet resistance can arise unexpected from the smallest details, whether we find ourselves in a lower middle class kitchen (Jeanne Dielman), on the streets of the former Eastern Bloc (From the East), or at the US-Mexico border (From the Other Side). This series will culminate in a one-day symposium, The Cinema of Chantal Akerman: Time, Borders, Politics, organized by the Northwestern Image Lab and the Department of French and Italian. The symposium will bring together renowned scholars from the fields of film and media studies, art history, and political theory, and is scheduled to take place on Friday, April 28, 2017.

 

Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles

Thursday, April 6, 2017 7:00 PM
(Chantal Akerman, 1975, Belgium/France, 35mm, 201 min.)

One of the monumental works of world cinema, Jeanne Dielman has become an influential film and a feminist touchstone for a broad and diverse group of filmmakers, theorists, writers, and artists. Its structure is simple, but its impact is profound. Over the course of three days (and the film’s three-plus hour running time), we follow the life of Jeanne Dielman, a single mother who is turning tricks on the side. In deliberate real time, she scrubs a bathtub, prepares meals, and performs other mundane domestic duties. These scenes reveal both the crushing monotony of her life and her obsessive fastidiousness; they also valorize and give due attention to the kind of “woman’s work” that is usually invisible in cinema. Dielman is a woman trapped by routine, which is only broken by a shocking act at the end of the film. Writer and critic Gary Indiana has rightly stated that "Akerman's brilliance is her ability to keep the viewer fascinated by everything normally left out of movies.” It’s a devastating modern masterpiece.

No Home Movie w/ Saute ma ville

Thursday, April 13, 2017 7:00 PM

No Home Movie (Chantal Akerman, 2015, Belgium, DCP, 115 min.)

In both her fiction films and her documentaries, Chantal Akerman was known for combining a detached formal rigor and subjects that were personal, intimate, and emotionally-charged. The most striking confluence of these two traits is No Home Movie, her final film and a portrait of her mother Natalia, an Auschwitz survivor. The film is a series of conversations between mother and daughter, filmed in the months before Natalia’s death in 2014 and completed not long before Akerman’s own suicide in 2015. The film was shot on consumer-grade digital video cameras and on a BlackBerry, providing an intimacy openness, and casualness to the footage; but Akerman’s formal play is not far off (the film is broken in half, for example, by an extended landscape sequence).

Preceded by Saute ma ville (Chantal Akerman, 1968, Belgium, DCP, 13 min.)

Saute ma ville, or Blow Up My Town, is Akerman’s first film, an absurdist French New Wave-inspired “day in the life” vignette about a young woman in her kitchen.

D'Est (From the East)

Thursday, April 20, 2017 7:00 PM
(Chantal Akerman, 1993, Belgium/France/Portugal, 16mm, 107min.)

Perhaps Chantal Akerman’s most visually stunning film, From the East is a personal travelogue, a journey through Eastern Europe at the time of the dissolution of the former Soviet bloc. Akerman journeys from west to east—through East German, Poland, the Baltics, and Russia—and from summer to winter. It’s an observation film of small details and moments, presented without dialogue or narration, and haunting in its revealing of a time and place in transition. At its heart are the people, anonymous crowds and individuals who have been locked in to a way of life that has become unraveled. Described by many critics as an elegy, From the East is indeed a moody, somber, and mournful work, but one that treats its subject (and subjects) with a loving eye and respect. “A travelogue through history... Akerman has described this elegant masterpiece as ‘documentary bordering on fiction’; it’s also a purely cinematic monument in time and space.”—J. Hoberman, The Village Voice

De l'autre côte (From the Other Side)

Thursday, April 27, 2017 7:00 PM
(Chantal Akerman, 2002, France/Belgium/Australia/Finland, digital, 103 min.)

In the light of our current political moment, Chantal Akerman’s films feel more urgent than ever; but perhaps none more so than From the Other Side, a minimalist and evocative exploration of the U.S.-Mexican border and the lives of those who live and work there. Akerman again brings her talent for landscape cinematography to the mountains and deserts of Arizona, painting a terrain that stands between work and poverty for Mexican immigrants hoping to find a way across. Coupled with this are interviews with many of the stakeholders: immigrants themselves, law enforcement, U.S. locals who live along the border, and immigration rights advocates. Part landscape study, portraiture, structural formalism, documentary, journalism, and essay, From the Other Side is ultimately, as Dave Kehr wrote in the New York Times, a “spare, painterly and scrupulously unsentimental look. Both eerily beautiful and filled with a quiet compassion."

The Cinema of Chantal Akerman: Time, Borders, Politics Symposium

Friday, April 28, 2017 2:00 PM
The Cinema of Chantal Akerman: Time, Borders, Politics, organized by the Northwestern Image Lab and the Department of French and Italian. The symposium will bring together renowned scholars from the fields of film and media studies, art history, and political theory.