In the revolutionary first decade of her filmmaking career, Chantal Akerman devoted herself to nothing less than the total resculpting of cinematic time and space. Journeying between Europe and New York City, Akerman forged a highly personal style that fuses avant-garde influences with deeply human expressions of alienation, desire, and displacement—themes that she would explore in a series of increasingly ambitious shorts, documentaries, and features, including the towering Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles. With immersive rhythms that render the most minute details momentous, these landmarks of twentieth-century art continue to reveal new ways of experiencing cinema and framing reality.
SAUTE MA VILLE
Made when the director was just eighteen, Chantal Akerman’s debut film is a blistering first expression of what would become one of her major themes: women’s confinement in and rebellion against the domestic sphere. Akerman plays a young woman who, alone in her kitchen, enacts a savaging of traditional domestic rituals that leads to a literally explosive climax.
L’ENFANT AIMÉ OU JE JOUE À ÊTRE UNE FEMME MARIÉE
One of Chantal Akerman’s most rarely seen works is an intimate portrait of a young mother (played by Claire Wauthion) whose day-to-day routines are intercut with her stream-of-consciousness ruminations on her family, sex life, relationships, and body. Though Akerman (who also appears in the film) was later dismissive of her second directorial effort, its patient focus on the tension between domesticity and a woman’s inner life marks L’enfant aimé as an important link in the development of her artistry.
Chantal Akerman’s dialogue with the 1960s avant-garde movement of structural cinema begins here, with the first film she made in New York City—a breakthrough in her experiments with the bending of cinematic time and space. As the camera completes a series of circular pans around a small apartment, the interior’s furniture, its clutter, and the filmmaker herself—staring back at us from bed—become the subjects of a moving still life.
Under Chantal Akerman’s watchful eye, a cheap Manhattan hotel glows with mystery and unexpected beauty, its corridors, elevators, rooms, windows, and occasional occupants framed like Edward Hopper tableaux. Filmed over the course of fifteen hours, from evening to dawn, with cinematographer and frequent collaborator Babette Mangolte’s carefully controlled camera gradually making its way from the lamplit lobby to the rooftop overlooking an awakening city, this radical, silent experiment in duration stands as one of Akerman’s most arresting formal achievements, collapsing time and charging the quotidian space it surveys with an eerie unreality.
Shot and directed by Chantal Akerman and Samy Szlingerbaum, this quietly revealing variation on the filmmaker’s recurring themes of dislocation and alienation unfolds on one day—August 15, 1973—in a Paris apartment, where Finnish expat Chris Myllykoski opens up to the camera about her anxieties and uncertainties, her aspirations and ennui, and the sense of vulnerability she feels being a woman alone in an unfamiliar country. As Myllykoski’s voice-over narration shifts between the mundane and the searching, Akerman’s observant camera remains attuned to tiny gestures that tell a story of their own.
JE TU IL ELLE
Chantal Akerman’s first narrative feature is a startlingly vulnerable exploration of alienation and the search for connection. In a performance at once daringly exposed and enigmatic, Akerman plays a young woman who, following a lengthy, self-imposed exile, ventures out into the world, where she has two very different experiences of intimacy: first with a truck driver (Niels Arestrup) who picks her up, and then with a female ex-lover (Claire Wauthion). Culminating in an audacious, real-time carnal encounter that brought lesbian sexuality to the screen with a new frankness, Je tu il elle finds Akerman wielding her radical minimalism with a newfound emotional and psychological precision.
JEANNE DIELMAN, 23, QUAI DU COMMERCE, 1080 BRUXELLES
A singular work in film history, Chantal Akerman’s Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles meticulously details, with a sense of impending doom, the daily routine of a middle-aged widow, whose chores include making the beds, cooking dinner for her son, and turning the occasional trick. In its enormous spareness, Akerman’s film seems simple, but it encompasses an entire world. Whether seen as an exacting character study or as one of cinema’s most hypnotic and complete depictions of space and time, Jeanne Dielman is an astonishing, compelling movie experiment, one that has been analyzed and argued over for decades.
NEWS FROM HOME
Following her time living in New York in the early 1970s, Chantal Akerman returned to the city to create one of her most elegantly minimalist and profoundly affecting meditations on dislocation and estrangement. Over a series of exactingly composed shots of Manhattan circa 1976, the filmmaker reads letters sent by her mother years earlier. The juxtaposition between the intimacy of these domestic reports and the lonely, bleakly beautiful cityscapes results in a poignant reflection on personal and familial disconnection that doubles as a transfixing time capsule.
LES RENDEZ-VOUS D’ANNA
Chantal Akerman’s narrative follow-up to her international breakthrough, Jeanne Dielman, is a penetrating portrait of a woman’s soul-deep malaise and a mesmerizing odyssey through a haunted Europe. While on a tour through Germany, Belgium, and France to promote her latest movie, Anna (Aurore Clément), an accomplished filmmaker, passes through a series of eerie, exquisitely shot brief encounters—with men and women, family and strangers—that gradually reveal her emotional and physical detachment from the world. Mirroring the itinerant Akerman’s own restless wanderings, this quasi self-portrait journeys through a succession of liminal spaces—hotel rooms, railway stations, train cars—toward an indelible encounter with the specter of history.
THREE-BLU-RAY SPECIAL EDITION FEATURES
- New 4K digital restoration of Les rendez-vous d’Anna and 2K digital restorations of Saute ma ville; L’enfant aimé ou Je joue à être une femme mariée; La chambre; Hotel Monterey; Le 15/8; Je tu il elle; Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles; and News from Home, with uncompressed monaural soundtracks
- Hanging Out Yonkers, an unfinished film from 1973 by Chantal Akerman
- Film-school tests by Akerman
- New program on Akerman featuring critic B. Ruby Rich
- New visual essay on Akerman featuring archival interviews
- Autour de “Jeanne Dielman,” a documentary made during the filming of Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles, shot by actor Sami Frey and edited by Agnès Ravez and Akerman
- Interviews with Akerman, cinematographer Babette Mangolte, actors Aurore Clément and Delphine Seyrig, and Akerman’s mother, Natalia
- Appreciation by filmmaker Ira Sachs
- PLUS: An essay and notes on the films by critic Beatrice Loayza
New cover by Century