85 Great Directors: Chantal Akerman

“I was breathing, and then at one point I understood it was the time to cut. It was my breathing that decided the length of my shots.”


What Got This Director Here?
: Jeanne Dielman.

My Favorite Past Experience Was…: N/A.

What Did I Watch: Je Tu Il Elle and News From Home.

Where Does She Fit: Je Tu Il Elle is an oddball case of a movie where the structure grows more and more prickly as you reflect on it, but watching it in the moment is sort of agonizing yet mesmerizing. I can’t stand porn, and this has a very long sex scene that only grows in how deliberately Chantal Akerman, playing herself, uses physicality to convey character alongside weirder, quirkier shit like the sugar eating. It feels like a line is being straddled between Godardian quirk and the long takes of anguish she’d become known for. Wonder what’s to come if I ever see Jeanne Dielman?

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News From Home, however, is absolutely incredible. There is a very real chance of my life going entirely to shit once I graduate from college, unemployed and miserable and with no real skills or experience, yet while I care what my parents think I also don’t at all. I feel weirdly reassured and panicky, and this movie’s long takes and weird soundscapes (the jarring transitions between the streets and the subway made me flinch repeatedly) all feel like a time capsule just for me. Nothing sums up the unsettling nature of this masterpiece more than the guy on the subway who stares at the camera, only for the train to start and him to flinch. He is lost in a cinematic trance before remembering his troubles.

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Most Valuable Asset: Looooong takes.
Most Excited For: Jeanne Dielman if it ever gets theatrically shown near me.
Did They Deserve a Spot?: Yes.

Coming Up Next: Body horror pioneer, David Cronenberg.

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