Like every year, the Amsterdam Independent Film pays tribute to one of the masters of the independent film industry and explores the beginnings of their creative journeys. In 2020, we'll look at famed Belgian filmmaker Chantal Akerman (1950-2015). A pioneer of modern feminist cinema, her oeuvre often explores the mundanities of everyday life with a clear, personal eye and has left a considerable mark on avant-garde cinema.
As a young girl, Akerman decided promptly to become a filmmaker after seeing Jean-Luc Godard's Pierrot le fou (1965) in the cinema. She spent some time in New York in the early seventies, where she was an avid visitor of the Anthology Film Archives and immersed herself in the works of avant-garde directors such as Stan Brakhage, Jonas Mekas, Michael Snow, Yvonne Rainer, and Andy Warhol. Akerman directed more than 40 films, including Saute ma ville (1968), Je, Tu, Il, Elle (1974), her masterpiece Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (1975), Les rendez-vous d'Anna (1978), the musical Golden Eighties (1986), and the romantic comedy A Couch in New York (1996), as well as documentaries and video installations.
"Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles is Chantal Akerman’s masterpiece, a mesmerizing study of stasis and containment, time and domestic anxiety. Stretching its title character’s daily household routine in long, stark takes, Akerman’s film simultaneously allows viewers to experience the materiality of cinema, its literal duration, and gives concrete meaning to a woman’s work. We watch, for three hours and twenty-one minutes, as Jeanne cooks, takes a bath, has dinner with her adolescent son, shops for groceries, and looks for a missing button. Each gesture and sound becomes imprinted in our mind, and as we are lulled by familiar rhythms and expected behavior, we become complicit with Jeanne’s desire for order. The perfect parity between Jeanne’s predictable schedule and Akerman’s minimalist precision deflects our attention from the fleeting signs of Jeanne’s afternoon prostitution. They nevertheless loom at the edge of our mind, gradually building unease. Jeanne Dielman constitutes a radical experiment with being undramatic, and paradoxically with the absolute necessity of drama." (Ivonne Margulies on Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles)
"Reviewing “Anna” when it was shown in the 1979 “New Directors/New Films” series at the Museum of Modern Art, the New York Times critic Janet Maslin wrote that Akerman’s grave, solitary alter ego “is both so fearless and joyless she’s almost a ghost.” Anna is haunting a gray, transitory landscape that is itself haunted by the memories of World War II. As much as anything, “Anna” evokes the feelings of a Jew traveling alone in postwar Germany. More personal than might have been appreciated in 1978, “Anna” brings Akerman’s career-long concerns to the fore — homelessness, solitude, the child-parent relationship, the nature of sexual identity." (J. Hoberman on Les rendez-vous d'Anna)
Les rendez-vous d'Anna (1978) on Wednesday Oct 7 at 7pm
Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (1975) on Saturday Oct 10 at 2pm