Chantal Akerman fell in love with cinema when she saw Godard’s Pierrot le fou as a teenager. At 18, she completed her first short, and at 25, directed Jeanne Dielman, which propelled her into the ranks of internationally recognized auteurs. Since then, she has made about 40 works – from 35mm features to video essays to experimental documentaries – always mixing high art with popular culture, minimalist rigor with physical exuberance.
She was born in Brussels, capital of Belgium-its gray winters, cloudy skies and hazy light were once captured by Flemish painting. Her parents were Holocaust survivors from Poland. They did not care about cinema and cared even less about passing that painful part of Jewish history to their children. Yet this “nothing” they refused to talk about became the core of Akerman’s inspiration.
Many of her films are about a girl/woman whose desires, passions, longings, and obsession with an unspoken past are too big to be contained in Brussels alone. In her films, women run away, cut classes, hitch-hike, sleeplessly walk the streets at night, love two people at the same time, strive to marry the wrong person, stalk female ex-lovers, commit murders, travel throughout Europe, go to America, to Eastern Europe, illegally cross borders – in situations that range from the banal to the surreal.
A seductive emotional violence bursts at the seams. Language often drifts, a love letter turns into an obsessive diary or a schmaltzy song, a simple note into a surrealist catalogue, a word of consolation into a list of possible catastrophes. The excess contained in Akerman’s signature frontal shots pours out in language, in pleasure. A true independent filmmaker, Akerman writes or co-writes all her screenplays, and her films outline an autobiography of sorts, willfully exploding the boundaries of sex, race, ethnicity, genre, language, and geography. (BR)
To screen as many works as possible and display all the facets of Akerman’s career, REDCAT is presenting this program in collaboration with the UCLA Film and Television Archive.