Chantal Akerman passed away this past Monday at the age of 65. Her death flew under the radar of the mainstream media, and did not catch my attention until Wednesday. We at The Movie Blog owe her, and everyone, an apology for our tardiness in coverage. The Belgian filmmaker deserves more than what I write.
Though I am not an expert on Akerman’s work, a stack of her films sits in my house, and with her passing, the stack is glowing. Akerman’s reputation is as one of the brightest spots in experimental cinema, and a strong voice within film culture and for feminism. She was an inspiration to many. She will continue to inspire. A friend of mine posted on her death, and quoted her as saying, “fuck yes, women make films!” She was a strong woman, a strong person.
Perhaps her greatest film, one of my favorites ever, and the only film I’ve seen of hers, 1975’s Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du commerce, 1080 Bruxelles is a masterpiece. Its hypnotic, and aesthetically challenging. It’s both a feminist statement and a work of pure humanity. It focuses on the life of a single mother, slaving away as a housewife and a prostitute to provide for her son and slog through life. What Jeanne Dielman does formally and with narrative is equally engaging, and there’s hardly been a film like it that is also so enjoyable.
I love to be funny, to try and entertain people with my reviews, but I take film seriously, and this is a sad day. With Akerman’s death, we’ve lost a real artist. Richard Brody’s piece for the New Yorker on Akerman is surely more thorough than mine, but I want to add to the many voices that have expressed a deep sorrow at losing such a special filmmaker, and add my deep appreciation and gratitude for Chantal Akerman.
Here is a list of her films, Her last film, No Home Movie, came out this year.