FILM PROGRAM — June 2016 to May 2017


CHANTAL AKERMAN PAR CHANTAL AKERMAN, Belgium, 1996. (63 mins., digital)

In “Chantal Akerman par Chantal Akerman,” the filmmaker turns a commission for “Cinéma, de notre temps” from ARTE, the French German Cultural Channel, into a study of herself. In her own way of creating a portrait of herself and the world, Akerman delivers a monologue accompanied by a montage of clips of her films from 1968 to 1996 — many of which we’ve presented since LOOKING, REALLY LOOKING! began in the summer of 2016. “Chantal Akerman par Chantal Akerman” lets us see what film historian Nicole Brenez so aptly described in “The Pajama Interview” of 2011. “To meet Chantal Akerman is to experience someone incomparable: a person of uncommon force, capable of wrestling a film from a well of the worst production problems; a person of immense vulnerability, to gauge the extent that she offers herself to others, provided they do not represent power of any sort, whether political, economic or symbolic; a creature capable of the most extraordinary gestures, small and large alike." —Nicole Brenez, “Chantal Akerman: The Pajama Interview,” originally published in the Viennale “Useful Book #1”publication: “Chantal Akerman, The Pajama Interview” (2011).

LE DEMENAGEMENT (Moving), France, 1992. (42 mins., digital)
LE JOUR OÙ (The Day When), 1997. (7 min., digital)

In a script written by Akerman, a man stands in his new apartment in a state of inertia and dislocation. “Le Demenagement” records the man delivering an extended soliloquy, surrounded by boxes of his possessions. He cannot bring himself to unpack, as he is preoccupied with feelings of indecision and regret. Akerman circumscribes the man’s action within an interior space as she has in earlier films — be it a room, a corridor or inside a hotel — as seen in her films “La Chambre,” “Je, tu, il, elle” and “Hotel Monterrey.” In “Le Demenagement,” the inaction, limited views and extended shots place the viewer into real time with the character. As if staged for theatre, the protagonist in “Le Demenagement” is performed by Sami Frey whose portrayal invokes a sense of futility akin to Valdimir and Estragon in Samuel Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot.” Like “Chantal Akerman par Chantal Akerman,” this film was created for ARTE, the French television station, as one of a series of filmmakers’ monologues.

LE JOUR OÙ (The Day When), 1997. (7 mins., 35mm)
Akerman called “Le Jour Où” — “at its heart, a homage to Godard.” A self-portrait — a poetic portrait of the mind — an indelible film.

NUIT ET JOUR (Night and Day), 1991. (90 mins.) Belgium/France/Switzerland. (90 mins.)

Julie and Jack live in a small flat near Boulevard Sebastopol. Now in Paris, they are a young couple from the provinces who spend their days making love and their nights apart, while Jack drives a taxi and Julie walks the streets, waiting for him to come home. Their vague aspirations take a backseat to their constant passion. “Music” resonates throughout — Julie sings wordlessly alongside the soundtrack’s musical backdrop; sometimes she sings while walking and sometimes we merely hear her off-screen. In a post-modern take on Truffault’s "Jules and Jim," Julie begins spending her nights with Joseph, who drives Jack’s taxi during the day. Although she is getting no sleep, Julie resists choosing one of them, as she says she loves both of them, but realizes she may need to take action when they begin sounding too similar. It is symbolic in Akerman’s use of interior space that a physical change to the couple’s apartment leads them to join the larger world. When it was first shown, Vincent Canby of "The New York Times" called "Nuit et Jour" “a small, seriously comic extravaganza.”

TOUTE UNE NUIT (All One Night), 1982. Belgium/France/Netherlands/Canada. (86 mins.)

In a departure from Akerman’s use of extended shots to simulate real time in a film, "Toute une Nuit" is a sequence of brief nocturnal encounters of over seventy strangers and lovers in various places on a warm summer’s night in Brussels. Akerman’s composing creates a rhythm which carries the various scenes through the entire film — through an entire night. Structured as much through music as through visuals, the couples drink, dance, embrace, listen to the juke box and part to a soundtrack of footsteps, slamming doors and other city sounds. A wholly nocturnal love story, "Toute une Nuit," focuses on unknown individuals in vignettes which together choreograph a larger narrative of the possibility for passionate human connection. In remembering Akerman, film critic David Jenkins said of "Toute une Nuit," “Akerman understood that an unflagging dedication to minutiae — finding a focus, then focusing some more — fueled her profound postulations about life, love, people, relationships, the whole bit. … a reminder that someone looked at the world – and also saw it.” — David Jenkins, film critic for "The Guardian," October 6, 2015

LA FOLIE D'ALMAYER (Almayer’s Folly), 2011. Belgium/France. (127 mins.)

Akerman crosses boundaries, not only between the worlds of art and film, but between personal writing, literature and film. In 2000, Akerman’s first adaptation of a literary work for film was "La Captive," based on "The Prisoner," the fifth volume of Marcel Proust’s "Remembrance of Things Past" (1913). Akerman’s second to last film, "La folie d’Almayer" from 2011, is an adaptation of Joseph Conrad’s "Almayer’s Folly" published in 1895. Set in the 19th century, Conrad’s story centers on the life of a Dutch trader in the Borneo jungle and his relationship to his mixed race daughter who ultimately chooses her Malaysian identity over her father’s attempt to raise and educate her to be European. If like Proust, Akerman’s "La Captive" raises the question of never being able to know the “other” — between man and woman — Akerman’s "La folie d’Almayer’s" “other” is racial and cultural. In many scenes, one color subtly dominates: the green of nature, the blue of the moonlight or night, yellow streetlights, red in dimly lit areas. Almayer has chosen fidelity to profit, white superiority and culture, even though he remains alone in his deteriorating circumstances. At the conclusion, Almayer’s mind is irreparably destroyed. He dies unable to delude himself, leaving behind a daughter he’s wiped from his consciousness. While Conrad allows Almayer to die with a calm look, Akerman is not so kind. She ends in a final, minutes-long shot of the ravaged face of Almayer as he is forced to confront his folly. Akerman compassionately yet firmly, forces him to not forget.

SUD (South), 1999. Belgium/France. (71 mins.)

Inspired by the work of writers William Faulkner and James Baldwin, Akerman’s initial concept for “Sud” was a meditation on the American South. The racially motivated murder of James Byrd Jr. in the East Texas town of Jasper on June 7, 1998, radically shifted Akerman’s focus from the southern landscape to the rural landscape which held the emotional trauma and aftermath of Byrd’s murder in a community riven by its history of racism and Klan activity. Akerman imposes time and the tortuous death of Byrd on to the landscape and to the people mourning Byrd’s death. “Sud” is structurally and emotionally disrupted by Akerman’s prolonged tracking shots of Jasper’s landscape, undercut by interviews and the uncut and uncomfortably close-up perspective of the mourners at the memorial service for Byrd. In echoes of James Baldwin, the N.A.A.C.P. said at the time, “We call upon all Americans to stand up and be counted and to condemn this for the heinous crime that it is.” In “Sud” like in “D’est,” Akerman arrives at the boundary of language and the use of “graven images,” of the unrepresentable or inexpressible. “How do the trees and the whole natural environment evoke so intensely death, blood and the weight of history? How does the present call up the past? And how does the past, with a mere gesture or a simple regard, haunt and torment you as you wander along an empty cotton field or a dusty country road?” —Chantal Akerman


Commissioned by Amnesty International for its TV program “Ecrire contre l’oubli” (Write Against Oblivion), Akerman’s contribution in the form of a poem is dedicated to Febe Elisabeth Velasquez, an El Salvadorian trade unionist and mother of three, murdered by the US-backed junta. Deneuve emerges from the calm of a Parisian night to deliver a heartfelt plea for remembrance of Febe Elisabeth’s too short life. Sonia Wieder-Atherton’s cello weeps appropriately.

DE L’AUTRE COTE (From the Other Side), 2002. (103 mins.)

“They have stories to tell … unfortunately,” said Akerman. “Unfortunately,” because the stories Akerman hears are about death in the desert — the final resting place of Mexicans desperate for work who perish crossing the border into the United States. “De l’autre Cote” is filmed on both sides of the border between Arizona and Mexico. On one side is Agua Prieta, and on the other, Douglas. Akerman listens to an array of people in the town — Mexicans (in a doorway, a yard, an office, a restaurant), talking about relatives who disappeared, and Arizonans talking about the influx of illegal immigrants. Their stories shift us between empathy and compassion for the suffering of those on one side and disgust by the lack of compassion on the other side. In one sequence, an illegal immigrant reads out a proud, pained statement at a cafeteria table of his companions. By contrast, the film’s concluding monologue — recollections about a middle-aged Mexican maid who made it to San Diego, secured work, but one day disappeared — was Akerman’s own creation delivered in voiceover over nighttime highway footage. In long takes, Akerman films the dusty desert and flat border towns. U.S. helicopter night-vision footage shows a line of people attempting to cross illegally, caught only as ghostly silhouettes. Akerman is said to have read a news story on American ranchers who liked to hunt immigrants with their shotguns and night-vision goggles. “Long shots make you feel the journey… With those shots, you cannot forget them—because I insist. . . You have them in your body.” —Chantal Akerman

“Chilling! Stunningly composed… In a few deft interviews [the film] shows the hypocrisy and paranoia involved in U.S. immigration policy and its failure to acknowledge the economic dependence of the U.S. on undocumented laborers.” —Amy Taubin, “Film Comment,” 2012

Saturday, May 13, 4:30pm
NO HOME MOVIE, 2015. (115 mins.)
The #1 Best Film of the Year” by Manohla Dargis, The New York Times.

“No Home Movie” is Chantal Akerman’s last film, a portrait of her mother, Natalia (Nelly) in the final months of her life. Chantal is present in the tidy Brussels apartment, sometimes away, and yet never far from her intimately entwined relationship with her mother, a survivor of the Holocaust. Her sister Sylviane arrives, Clara, the Mexican caretaker attends to her mother, and Chantal feels the push and pull between her will to forget and the desperate desire to know more of her mother’s story before it is irretrievable. Even now the kitchen is the locus of every day interactions, recalling the imprint her mother’s obsessive routines made on Akerman, seen in her 1975 masterpiece, “Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles.” Akerman interrupts the ways her camera looks on Nelly’s passing life (through a doorway, down a hallway, the furnishings, toward a window) with durational shots of the wind in the trees and across an arid desert landscape in Israel. In “No Home Movie” and “My Mother Laughs” (Ma mere rit), an “auto-portrait” Akerman wrote in 2013, Akerman gives voice to the precariousness of life. “I think if I knew I was going to do this, I wouldn’t have dared to do it.”

“Both elliptical and tryingly quotidian, ‘No Home Movie’ is a shattering contemplation of loss and grief as much as it is a search for identity and calm, for rootedness from a perpetually nomadic, breathless soul. It is not a home movie: it is a movie about having no home.” —Andrea Picard, “Cinema Scope”


LETTRE DE CINÉASTE, Belgium, 1984. (8 mins., digital).
CHANTAL AKERMAN PAR CHANTAL AKERMAN, Belgium, 1996. (64 mins., video). (Postponed to a later date)
AUTOUR DE JEANNE DIELMAN, France, 1975. dir. Sami Frey, (78 mins., digital)

This program presents three films across three decades on the work of artist/filmmaker, Chantal Akerman. Akerman directs two of the films in which she interrogates herself as subject alongside the nature and raison d’etre of cinema itself. In "Lettre de Cinéaste" (1984), Akerman with actor Aurore Clément as a kind of stand-in or proxy asks, What is cinema for? Who is it for? If the Mosaic prohibition on making graven images includes film images, where does that leave a Jewish filmmaker? Akerman turns a commission for "Cinéma, de notre temps" from ARTE, the French German Cultural Channel, into a study of herself in "Chantal Akerman par Chantal Akerman" (1996) in which she discovers her own feminized sensibility and another way of seeing the world and self through a monologue accompanied by a montage of clips of her films. Edited by Akerman, the final film is Sami Frey’s documentary video "Autour de Jeanne Dielman" (1975) shot on the set of "Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles.” In one scene, Akerman and French actor and film director, Delphine Seyrig, are in the dressing room. In questioning Akerman on how she wants her to comb her hair, a frustrated Seyrig tells Akerman “when you explain something, you find you don’t want to explain it.”

LES RENDEZ-VOUS D’ANNA, France/Belgium/West Germany, 1978. (127 mins., 35mm).

Before pursuing filmmaking, Chantal Akerman set out to be a writer. Like “Je tu il elle,” “Les Rendez-vous d’Anna” was originally written as a text, not a screenplay. Played by Aurore Clement, Anna Silver is a filmmaker Akerman described as “a sort of mutant… perhaps a heroine of the future.” Anna is seemingly rootless and traveling from city to city to promote her work; nomadism as a form of existential crisis. The film spans several days and three countries shot in trains, train stations, cinemas, car interiors and hotel rooms. Visits to Akerman’s parental home in Belgium are fleeting affairs—confessional intimacies between mother and daughter taken wherever they can. Hook-ups are easy-come/easy-go affairs and commitment is provisional. "Anna, where are you?," a voice enquires. Anna may not know or much care.

JE TU IL ELLE, France/Belgium, 1974. (86 mins., 16mm).

Like “Les Rendez-vous d'Anna,” Akerman originally wrote “Je, tu, il, elle” as a short story. A set of minimalist constraints create a space for an exploration of utter dissociation. Appearing as herself in the film, Akerman compulsively rearranges her few items of furniture, eats only from a bag of sugar, writes and rewrites a letter to a real or potential lover (rearranging the various drafts in a series of piles like a game of solitaire), and takes off her clothes and drapes them over her body. From the start, the film makes it clear that we cannot trust temporal continuity. The first line corresponds to the last action of the film. The figures are physical but formal. White bodies on white sheets. The film provides neither catharsis nor thesis. “Her [Chantal Akerman] movies give cinema heft. They have the rigour of a Poussin painting. She looks longer and harder than most directors, and almost seems to stop film's flicker.' —Mark Cousins, Edinburgh-based film director and critic.

LE 15/8, France/Belgium, 1973. (42 mins., digital).
DIS-MOI (Tell Me), France, 1980. (45 mins., digital)

These three early Akerman films (spanning the decade of the 1970s), bring together different structures by which the filmmaker finds her own voice. What “Le 15/08” shares with “L’enfant aimé” is a sense of domestic space in which life is represented as a rhythmical process, with pulse, form and function of all the parts made visible. The voice-over in “Le 15/08,” presents a stream-of-consciousness portrait of a young Danish woman in Paris. She is there looking for work, in an apartment that is not her own. Time passes, and her thoughts are heard. But there is also judgment and taking issue with the woman’s own body, presented as if the locus of criticism lies outside herself, a trope that seems to emerge from the mirror sequence of “L’enfant aimé.” “Aujourd’hui dis-moi” features a set of interviews conducted by Akerman as she travels from door to door in Paris, knocking and being invited inside by a series of elderly, respectable-looking ladies. Over coffee and cakes, these women, all Jewish from Eastern Europe and survivors of the Holocaust, share their dread tales, amid stories of food and love and family life.


Shot in New York, Akerman’s first English-language film “Histoires d’Amérique” conjures up an informal history of Jewish life over the past 100 years through a series of eyewitness accounts recreated by a group of largely unknown actors. Akerman explains, “Instead of learning my family's story directly from my parents, I had to turn to literature—[Isaac Bashevis] Singer. But his memories weren’t exactly mine, so I made up my own; this film is about memory, but an invented one.” The actors are all Jewish. Shot in a vacant lot in Brooklyn at night, they recite jokes and real-life stories that define what has survived and been transmitted from generation to generation. The trauma of the old world is never far from the new. Like the jesters or “badchen” who entertained at weddings in the old country, the actors move between comedy and intricate Talmudic references. “Histoires d’Amerique’s” ambivalence lies somewhere between Woody Allen’s “Broadway Danny Rose” and Samuel Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot.” As Akerman has said, “when history becomes impossible to bear, there is only one thing to do: send yourself up and laugh.” Nominated for the Golden Bear award, Berlin International Film Festival, 1989.

NEWS FROM HOME, France/Belgium/West Germany, 1976. (85 mins., 16mm).

Akerman returned to New York in 1976, after having completed her original and audacious film “Jeanne Dielman" in Europe. She was travelling back to a city of decay (not decadence) with letters her mother wrote to her when she was in New York in 1972. “News from Home” unfolds in long observational shots interspersed with the soundtrack of a woman’s voice reading and bringing family news from Brussels, describing trips to the seashore and worries for her daughter in New York. Who is addressing whom is no simple matter. Akerman allows us to see and hear what she sees and hears—tall buildings, diners, late-night bookstores, and an indelible final shot, looking back from the Staten Island Ferry as it pulls away from lower Manhattan’s skyline. Sounds might be in sync or not. “Akerman has described her murmuring voice-over of her mother’s letters as psalmody (the singing of psalms or sacred canticles in public worship), which evokes a prayerful effect, the mingling of longing, a provoking of guilt and the offer of love. The closing scenes of departure and voyage play without the presence of a voice. Such an absence perhaps allows for a new note of optimism—to proceed, one must depart.”—Adam Roberts, A Nos Amours, London

J’AI FAIM, J’AI FROID, France, 1984. (13 mins., 35mm).
We apologize that these two films will not be shown and be postponed to Spring 2017. This is due to changes in the rights to "Portrait d'une jeune fille" with the film's distributor in France.

D’EST (From the East), Belgium/France/Portugal, 1993. (110 mins., 16mm). No subtitles.

Performative conversation with Luis Croquer and Marat Grinberg
* see "Events" for details

LETTERS HOME, France, 1986. (104 mins., video). [Not available with subtitles]

RUE MALLET STEVENS, France/Belgium, 1986. (7 mins., digital).
HÔTEL MONTEREY, Belgium/US, 1972. (65 mins., DCP).
TROIS STROPHES SUR LE NOM DE SACHER, France, 1989. (12 mins., digital).

JEANNE DIELMAN, 23 QUAI DU COMMERCE, 1080 BRUXELLES, Belgium/France, 1975. (201 mins., 35mm)

A Presentation by Berenice Reynaud
* see "Events" for details


FRIDAY, JUNE 17, 8pm
I DON’T BELONG ANYWHERE, 2015. dir. Marianne Lambert (67min.)

“I Don’t Belong Anywhere” explores Chantal Akerman as a nomadic filmmaker and portrays Akerman in conversation with her collaborator, Claire Atherton, where she discusses the origins of her film language and charts her cinematic trajectory, one that never ceased to interrogate the meaning of her own existence. The film includes excerpts from many of Akerman’s 40-plus films made from 1968 to the time of her death in 2015.

FRIDAY, JUNE 24, 7pm
Program introduction by writer, SARA JAFFE

DIS-MOI (Tell Me), 1980. dir. Chantal Akerman (45 min.)
Dis-Moi was commissioned for French TV and is the first film, after 10 years in filmmaking, in which Chantal Akerman—herself the daughter of an Auschwitz survivor—engages with the Holocaust through intimate discussions with three Jewish grandmothers, all of them survivors of the Shoah. Akerman conducts the interviews herself, bearing witness to stories told by these elderly women and how they have been cut off both from their pasts and themselves by the experience of such horror. "And speak they do, movingly, affectingly, wonderfully. We learn as much in these few minutes as we should about the Shoah: yes, it was a terrible crime against humanity, that needs to be remembered and memorialized, but we also learn something elemental about life in the shtetl in Poland before the war (about bakery, tailoring, courtship, love), and so therefore the truth of what is lost. This is history as weft. The lineal facts may provide the warp, but without the weft we are unlikely to feel, because we all know what it is to sit beside a mother and hear the family history.” — Adam Roberts, The Huffington Post. French with new English Subtitles provided by A Nos Amours, London.

LÀ-BAS (Over There), 2006. dir. Chantal Akerman (79 min.)
Là-bas is one of Akerman’s most fragile and most powerful works in which she uses her own voice to personalize and narrate the visual images. For a month in Tel Aviv, Akerman points her lens outward through two large windows with blinds that filter the light of the exterior world. Apprehensive about a recent bombing, Akerman constructs a profound meditation on whether Israel is indeed the ‘promised land’ or merely a new form of exile. Akerman’s relationship with Israel is overwhelming and frustrating, a matter of love and hate. The vast untroubled waters have lapped these shores throughout human history. The sea is an image of freedom, or ease, of human concerns dwarfed. But as ever, it is back to the apartment, and the glimpse of a life outside, beyond the shutters. Winner of the Grand Prize at the Marseille International Documentary Festival and nominated for a French Cesar, in Là-bas Akerman, who was heavily influenced by structural filmmakers like Michael Snow, “takes the aesthetic strategies of the minimalists and marries them to the humanist content that they suppressed. Fragile… and powerful.” — Amy Taubin, Film Comment. French and English with English Subtitles.

Program introduction by dancer and choreographer, LINDA AUSTIN

UN JOUR PINA M’A DEMANDE (One Day Pina Asked), 1983. dir. Chantal Akerman (61min.)

Born a decade apart, Chantal Akerman (1950–2015) and Pina Bausch (1940–2009) were two remarkable artists who redefined our cultural expectations. In theatrical dance works, Bausch took commonplace gestures and transformed them into extraordinary pageants, while Akerman choreographed wonderful cinematic compositions made of rhythmical everyday elements. In "Un Jour Pina M’a Demandè," Chantal Akerman realized one of the greatest of all syntheses of dance and cinema. In her sublime 1983 film of Pina Bausch and her dancers, Akerman documents Bausch and her dance company for five weeks while they are on tour in Germany, Italy and France. The encounter is a meeting of sensibilities, a perfect combination of the filmmaker’s sage framing and the dancer’s flamboyant world-making.

Bausch was one of the most significant figures of modern dance and the pioneer of a unique style drawn from the German theatrical dance tradition known as "tanztheater." Akerman films the performers with a poised camera in audacious compositions which emphasize the dances’ visual counterpoint and overlapping rhythms by a framing that’s as much an act of blocking out as of depicting. Unlike the idealized vantage of Wim Wender’s "Pina" (2011), "Un Jour Pina M’a Demande“ reproduces the pull between meaning and its impasse that structures Bausch’s dances. Focused under Akerman’s lens, Bausch’s oeuvre resolves as a matter of the quotidian, pathologized, its order deranged not through an absence but an acceleration of some underlying logic: something, in other words, like the readymade subject of an Akerman film.” —Courtney Fiske, Artforum.

"Un Jour Pina M’a Demandè" captures the grace of bodies in motion both onstage and behind it, with dressing rooms filled with lithe, sinewy men and women slicking back hair, adjusting ties, reapplying makeup. In an interview, Akerman commented, “At first, I had been dazzled, I only saw the beauty, the aestheticism. But in making a film on her, I understood that in fact she makes you take pleasure in her sadism through formal beauty. But she’s a great artist.” —Chantal Akerman.

FRIDAY, JULY 29, 8pm

This hour and a half program is a series of up to ten short films by Chantal Akerman from her earliest film “Saute ma Ville” from 1968 to acclaimed and unknown films from 1971 up until 1997. The series brings together films which explore Akerman’s sexuality and life as a filmmaker such as “Le Chambre” (1972) and “J’ai Faim, J’ai Froid” (1984), along with “Rue Mallet Stevens” (1986) which introduces the music of cellist Sonia Wieder-Atherton and, in “Ecrire Contre L’oubli” (1991), Akerman engages with the plight of the tortured in El Salvador‘s civil war, an early film in her engagement with different geographies and human conflicts from the early 1990s until her death in 2015. The Short Films Program:

LA CHAMBRE, 1972, (11 min.)
LETTRE D'UN CINEASTE. 1984, (9 min.)
LA PARESSE (Sloth), 1986 (14 min.)
LE MARTEAU, 1986, (4 min.)
FAMILY BUSINESS, 1984, (18 min.)
ECRIRE CONTRE L'OUBLI, 1991, (4 min.)
LE JOUR OU, 1997, (7 min.)
SAUTE MA VILLE, 1968, (13 min.)