“It was Godard who gave me the desire for making films,” Chantal Akerman once said, and she would become just as influential as the director, if not quite landing the same level of name recognition. And while today brings the sad news of her passing, a new light will be shone on her work, and cinephiles could offer Akerman no greater honor than diving into her films.
It was Godard’s “Pierrot Le Fou” that caught Akerman’s eye at fifteen years old, and three years later, she directed her first short, “Saute ma ville.” Akerman’s films often focused their narratives around women, playing out in real time, and contained elements of autobiography. But perhaps most importantly, Akerman’s work was singular, and the filmmaker found a way to tell her unique stories no matter the format: short, feature length, or on television.
“Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du commerce, 1080 Bruxelles” is easily her best known film, available to American audiences via The Criterion Collection, who also collected her early short works in an Eclipse boxset. Together they offer a powerful perspective on an artist not just finding her voice, but sharpening it, during the most formative years of her career.
“I want the spectator to have a physical experience, for him or her to feel time. Films are generally made to literally and metaphorically pass the time. But I want you to experience the time of a character. I don’t want you to just go through an emotional experience, but also another kind of experience, like with music, that is unique because it is purely physical,” Akerman told Contour in 2005. Undoubtedly, she achieved her cinematic goals, and moreover, stretched her talents to the art world realm, with installations in galleries around the world.
Indeed, Akerman had been slated to open a new video installation, “Now,” at the end of the month at Ambika P3. She also recently debuted the documentary “No Home Movie” at the Locarno Film Festival.
An important and vital filmmaking voice, Akerman will be missed.