The images of New York in the late 1970s are accompanied by a voice over of Akerman herself, reading letters she had received from her mother. By way of solution, Akerman offers a series of halting “attempts” to discuss her work—or rather, to read the bits of text she has written around and about it, punctuated by fade-outs and ultimately presented in the third person because (as in the long Jewish joke she tells about a man so incapable of vaunting the merits of his cow at market that a neighbor has to do it for him) she prefers her films “when somebody else talks about them.” In fact, the only movie she mentions is Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (1975), the two-hundred-minute chronicle of three days in the life of a widowed Brussels housewife turned part-time prostitute which brought the twenty-five-year-old director to the attention of art-film and feminist circles. I was also raised with Hebrew, with the songs and prayers, and when I write, there’s something of a chant about it. It’s this exteriority that is under examination in my films. When you’re editing, something happens that tells you this is the moment to cut. A month before the start of the festival, we received the sad news of her death, and the film became an accurate record of the life of a filmmaker whose films cannot be left unscathed. Notebook Interview. They always demand, “Tell us what you’re going to do.” And all I can tell you is that I just don’t know. Suicide. Chantal Akerman La chambre / 1972 and News from Home / 1976 . We think of all the immigrants who came through this bay, including imagined beings like Kafka’s emissary Karl Rossman, and we feel the pull of the old country, whether we’ve been here in the new one for ten minutes or ten generations. So that we can go from the concrete to the abstract and come back to the concrete—or move forward in another way. I had the impression things were happening there, but I had no idea. Because otherwise I’ll be told that it’s literary, it’s theatrical, I don’t know what, but not cinema. Document: publication year range begin – Document: publication year range end. 190-205. When I edit, when I sense that I’m at the quarter mark or halfway through the film, I begin to screen it for myself, with my editor, Claire Atherton, with whom I’ve worked for years—almost by osmosis. I’m first-generation Belgian. In the beginning, especially with Jeanne Dielman, a lot of people thought I was a great theoretician. Frontal view of an airy, white-walled, white-curtained apartment furnished with worktables and chairs (three each), computers (two). When she asked why, I’d say, “Do it, and you’ll see why later.” I didn’t want to manipulate her. MR: But if you remain in foreign territory, where you have to speak properly, the decision to adapt Proust for your film La Captive is hardly anodyne. Her 16mm footage of anonymous streets, parking lots, subway stations and shabby fast food restaurants expresses a sense of disconnection—from home, family, the past and her old identity. CA: When you read a text, you’re on your own time. I write around the film, around the hole, let’s say, or around the void. With Chantal Akerman. Featuring selections by Jaime Manrique, David Grubbs, Molly Surno, Lynn Melnick, Lucio Pozzi, and more. CA: Yes, but I don’t feel it. Face to face with an image, we sense ourselves. How do you explain that? At last year’s Locarno Film Festival Akerman premiered her final film, No Home Movie. MR: But everyone finds something different in your work, which doesn’t quite fit together as a whole—and yet, you’re a single person. Interior, night. By stepping out of the way, Akerman allows one to see and hear what she sees and hears. And one could say that I’m on the border between so-called experimental film and narrative film and that I travel from one to the other. Five minutes isn’t the same thing for you as it is for me. CA: That’s true, but I’m always very close to the image. Filmed images of the City are accompanied by the texts of Chantal Akerman's loving but manipulative mother back home in Brussels. But the idea of transformation has always been something that I romanticize in a work. I didn’t know. The woman reads letters from Brussels, bringing news of brief jaunts to the seashore, a cousin’s wedding or a father’s health—simple letters from a mother worried about her daughter in New York City, alluding to twenty dollars slipped in the envelope and the hope of a prompt reply. Chantal Akerman, the Belgian filmmaker, lives in New York. MR: I heard it while reading and rereading your novella Une Famille à Bruxelles [A Family in Brussels, 1998]: the syntax is very spare, and all of a sudden I realized that it’s like biblical Hebrew, with the repetition—and, and, and! And five minutes sometimes seems long, sometimes seems short. CA: No, it was for me. News from Home Letters from Chantal Akerman’s mother are read over a series of elegantly composed shots of 1976 New York, where our (unseen) filmmaker and protagonist has relocated. But for the documentaries now, they want it to be more and more defined, and I absolutely cannot define things. Afterward, I developed it into a screenplay. But time is different for everyone. And feel it pass. I get the impression there’s a whole story there as well. This goes back to Je tu il elle, with the text that you write in the bedroom while eating sugar. In the United States—in New York, in any case, and in other places, too—there are people who come from countries all over the world. Screen, 45 (3). That would be better. That’s for gestures, actions, let’s say. The TIFF six-week retrospective, News from Home: The Films of Chantal Akerman, is a rich survey of the late avant-garde feminist filmmaker, whose work so often featured an apartment kitchen. Akerman is the daughter and Brussels is home. In French, in English, in Hebrew with the installation Bordering on Fiction: D’Est [1995], and now in Spanish with From the Other Side. by Ken Jacobs, Resisting Exploitation: Sky Hopinka Interviewed And that’s why there’s so much resistance. Brussels, Paris, New York, or Tel Aviv: Chantal Akerman’s films are there, and put these cities at the centre. . You have to be very, very calm. ISM ISM preserved by Anthology Film Archives with support from the National Film Preservation Foundation and The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. Close-up. How can the observation of an impervious city matched with humdrum voiceover make the viewer feel so much? There are still “French people.”. I’m cautious of it but I also need it to connect my thoughts with the process of making. It’s not for me; it’s because you have to ask for money. Not because the works repeat themselves but, on the contrary, because each one is the product of a Sisyphus-like attempt to explain the inexplicable, to find the definitively missing links and fill in the irreparable gaps. And not only that. The films looked at are: Je tu il elle (1974), jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (1975), News From Home (1976), and … In News from Home, Akerman juxtaposes her own voice reading letters from her mother sent during her stay in New York between ’71 and ’73 with a series of meditative long take shots documenting various parts of the city. News from home comes through … There I was with Delphine [Seyrig], and I told her, “When you put down the Wiener schnitzels like that, do it more slowly. Such is the beginning of Chantal Akerman by Chantal Akerman (1996), a first in the history of the venerable French public-television series Cinema, of Our Time, each installment of which had been—until then—one filmmaker’s profile of another. MR: We’ve discussed time and space, the editing of your films, texts and languages, and installations. The City comes more and more to the front while the words of the mother, read by Akerman herself, gradually fade away. The Toronto International Film Festival’s retrospective of the late Belgian filmmaker Chantal Akerman, titled News From Home: The Films of Chantal Akerman — curated by TIFF programmer Andréa Picard and by Akerman’s collaborator and editor, Claire Atherton — opens Friday (November 1) with News From Home.. Filmed images of the City are accompanied by the texts of Chantal Akerman's loving mother back home in Brussels. With News from Home, Akerman keeps her body—and any other “featured” body—out of the frame. I’ll never see news about Russia in the same way again.” That’s something. Later, when people would meet me, they’d realize that. interview 1; program 1; Document: language. It’s time that establishes that, too, I think. It came out that way, yes. MR: In the last part of the installation D’Est, there was a lone video monitor, and one heard your voice reciting the second commandment, which, of course, forbids graven images. And Nuit et jour [Night and Day, 1991] was a short story at first. We close the curtains, take the phones off the hook, and try to have a floating gaze, as an analyst might call it. CA: Well, this is the story of the mother tongue, which one either has or doesn’t have. When I was small, it was a mixture of my mother’s French and the synagogue, because my grandfather took care of me, and he didn’t speak French and we always went to the synagogue. And I’m here, but I could be elsewhere. MR: And that’s why this notion of “border dweller” interests me: That is where you touch down. Never hearing Akerman’s response, the viewer receives the letters on her behalf. When you take the sugar, move your arm forward more quickly.” Only dealing with externals. “Je fais la politique de la terre brûlée,” says Chantal Akerman. I learned to get by rather quickly, and I never felt that I spoke badly. CA: It was just a desire, like that. CA: Actually, you should write about me without speaking to me. CA: You know, when most people go to the movies, the ultimate compliment—for them—is to say, “We didn’t notice the time pass!” With me, you see the time pass. But that was part of the pleasure. Nothing found—try broadening your search. Sometimes the thrum of motors and rattle of subway cars overcome the voice reading the letters, as if New York were taking over, blotting out the past, the personal, the other place. The City comes more and more to the front while the words of the mother, read by Akerman herself, gradually fade away. READ MORE: Landmark Belgian Filmmaker Chantal Akerman Dies at 65 “News From Home” (1976) Letters from the filmmaker’s mother are read over elegantly composed shots of … interview 1; press kit 1; program 1; Document: language. I’m the one who decides. If you looked up, down, to the side, etc., you would be a viewer-voyeur. Eight years, two long fictions (and one seven-minute short), two feature documentaries (and one video “mise-en-scène” for public television), three installations, and one novella after Chantal Akerman by Chantal Akerman came into the world, the filmmaker’s self-portrait remains uncannily faithful to its subject. I’ve made plenty of things that had to do with that. But that suits me, in fact. We Recommend. Les Années 80 was a test-run. I find that, on the contrary, during this time, we feel our existence. Meet the … Belgium-France, 1976 / 16mm / Color / 90 min Chantal Akerman “J’adore. It’s not theoretical, it’s something I feel. Films that combine documentary and poetics. A shaggy dog enters smack in the middle of the frame, tail to the camera. And that’s the truth. In a new conversation published in Interview magazine, cinematographer Babette Mangolte sums up the connection she had with late filmmaker Chantal Akerman. Chantal Akerman, the Belgian filmmaker, lives in New York. For example, she now says, “I am going to doctor,” as you would in Polish. I hadn’t thought of it before. MR: But we’ve experienced those two hours, instead of sitting in a traffic jam or in front of the TV. After a time, a woman’s thin voice is heard over images of American-made cars riding long and low over potholed streets. Translated from French by Jeanine Herman. BOMB’s founders—New York City artists and writers—decided to publish dialogues that reflected the way practitioners spoke about their work among themselves. Today, BOMB is a nonprofit, multi-platform publishing house that creates, disseminates, and preserves artist-generated content from interviews to artists’ essays to new literature. By Liam Lacey. Static shot, interior, day. MR: Why did you choose New York when you were twenty-one? Indeed, she and her cinematographer Babette Mangolte caught the wind-cleared feel of the era with such acuity that one always remembers the film as depopulated, despite the shots of crammed subways and old Times Square types cruising by 24-hour diners. Belgium, 1975 / 35mm / Color / 200 min . Here, not belonging is not a pleasure. MR: The text is like a mark in time, while someone’s reading, and afterward. Directed by Chantal Akerman. The camera helps achieve the effect by progressing like a newcomer finding her bearings. And ultimately about the tension between the continuity of the shots and the subjects and the discontinuity of the history underlying them. Editing: Francine Sandberg. If the film stock had been exposed one minute earlier or later, everything would be different. And on my end, when I edit, the timing isn’t done just any way. Which is the same thing one could say about time: We sense time, so we sense ourselves. CA: No, I don’t think it was to prove that I had access to real French literature. For me, when I saw the hallways, the bedrooms, and all that in Proust’s The Captive, I said, that’s for me! . . Chantal Akerman (in Lettre d’un cineaste), 1984 A rose is a rose is a rose, but it’s not an apple. All of a sudden, I thought of the notion of the frontalier, the border crosser or, perhaps better, border dweller. I’m in the middle of writing a book about all this, and I’m finding it very difficult to explain. So that’s not voyeurism. Before, when I wrote texts, I at least had the pleasure of writing a text. MR: If I’m not mistaken, you never shoot your own images but always use a camera operator—from the beginning all the way to From the Other Side, in which you employed a mix of media, including your own small digital-video camera. Photography: Babette Mangolte, Luc Benhamou. News from Home Directed by Chantal Akerman • 1976 • United States Letters from Chantal Akerman's mother are read over a series of elegantly composed shots of 1976 New York, where our (unseen) filmmaker and protagonist has relocated. CA: You mean, I’m becoming part of the establishment? And that’s not happening here. Because I want to go make a documentary without knowing what I’m doing. You also sense that this is the time that leads toward death. They may evoke the lines in the camps or in wartime. News from Home is a gorgeous enigma, a simple formula that causes one to reel with emotion. Now it’s a little harder to get money. . Just by the fact that we’re somewhere beyond the merely informative. But I’ve already spoken about all that. CA: And God said . And at the same time, I felt that I didn’t belong. That is not the case in film. and . Chantal Akerman’s News from Home unfolds in a series of exactingly composed shots of New York streets in the 1970s, when Manhattan was a borough of … Join our newsletter for a weekly update of recent highlights and upcoming events. In 2015 we were eagerly preparing to welcome Chantal Akerman in Seville. I draw it out to the point where we have to cut. That’s the truth.”. It is a film haunted by a great many ghosts of various kinds: humans, places, and history. —Guy Bellinger. But, anyway, these are explanations after the fact. Miriam Rosen is a writer living in Paris. artforum.com is a registered trademark of Artforum International Magazine, New York, NY. It’s precisely because of this lack of knowledge that there can be a film. The New World recedes. I knew a few words of English, very few, when I arrived. It’s good for me [in English in original]. Brenda Longfellow , 'Love letters to the Mother: the work of Chantal Akerman', Canadian Journal of Political and Social Theory , 13 (1-2) (1989). Now I’m obliged to write screenplays because otherwise I won’t be given money. In an interview , critic Daniel Kasman questioned her about the difficulties of presenting a film that is so painfully intimate – the film consists of filmed moments Chantal shared with her dying mother, Nelly Akerman. Afterward, explaining it is always very difficult. “We wanted to find a language,” she added, “which was the language of women.”Mangolte and Akerman met in the early 1970s by way of French filmmaker Marcel Hanoun—Akerman, after directing two short films, headed to New York with … . So I circle around it. My mother arrived from Poland when she was ten. And afterward, I wanted to make it into a movie, but it was written as a short story, not as a screenplay. This is cinematic beauty on an elemental level, with cinema as the recording of what will one day be gone and the beauty as a presence that announces its disappearance. All of a sudden, I thought of that, and I said to myself, if I make images like this, en face, then it’s not idolatrous. News from Home subtitles. And, of course, they talk about time and memory, composed and recomposed in static shots and frontal images, in a constantly expanding and overlapping repertoire of experimental films, dramatic features, musical comedies, and documentaries. For example, in D’Est, we see people standing in line, and the shot lasts seven or eight minutes. Because the minute I start writing, I like it. Guerillère Talks Vivienne Dick, USA, 1978, 25m French with English subtitles. Les Rendez-vous d’Anna [1978] was also written as a text, not as a screenplay. The whole film is balanced on the tension between the discovery of New York and these persistent calls from home, written to Akerman during her first stay in 1971 and read aloud by the director in 1976. Whereas in France or in Belgium—for example, on my first school paper, the teacher wrote, “colloquial.” I went to a “high-class” high school, and I never felt like I belonged. CA: Yes, because Je tu il elle was initially a short story. CA: There’s an enormous amount of people who are not border dwellers, first of all. Impersonal but beautiful images of Akerman's life in New York are combined with letters from her loving but manipulative mother, read by Akerman … I know that I have to work, I have to go on. Toujours pas libre de ma mère.” News from Home. Terms & Conditions, IN HER OWN TIME: AN INTERVIEW WITH CHANTAL AKERMAN. The pioneering filmmakers discuss morality and dissent in Hara’s highly subjective documentaries: “It takes a toll to discover what binds your heart to the subject.”. MR: On the question of time, I’d have thought that today people would be more used to your way of working. CA: No, no. Production: Marilyn Watelet , Alain Dahan. I took two hours of someone’s life. Without ever saying “I” or “America,” Akerman reveals so much about both. An effort that, like the peeling of potatoes in Jeanne Dielman, the endless waiting lines in D’Est (From the East, 1993) or the deportation of “dirty” immigrants in De l’autre côté (From the Other Side, 2002), is common to her “story” and ours. Chantal Akerman Discusses "No Home Movie" The great Belgian director discusses her painfully intimate new documentary about her aging, dying mother, an Auschwitz survivor. Chantal Akerman’s 1977 drama News from Home I write about Akerman and News from Home as a way of writing about my own work. 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