If I have a reputation for being difficult, it’s because I love the everyday and want to present it. In general people go to the movies precisely to escape the everyday, said Belgian director and visual artist Chantal Akerman (1950-2015) in 1982.
She was already known by that time as the director of the masterpiece Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (1975), where the protagonist is a single mother working as a prostitute, where the focus falls on her monotonous, repetitive, and quintessentially domestic life. Akerman directed the camera towards the most banal activities, radically including everyday life not only in the story, but also in the film’s structure and rhythm. She crafted this through long shots, without cutting the scenes of peeling potatoes or kneading meatballs, a unique choreography of the body moving between the living room, kitchen, bedroom, bathroom, under the yoke of a domestic routine. And when her protagonist hides money earned from prostitution into a soup vase, it becomes clear that no one before Akerman so brilliantly combined the domestic microcosm with the macrocosm of economics and politics, not one had yet exposed so precisely the mechanisms of oppression experienced by women so ordinary that had so far been invisible to art.
She turned the cinema upside down, says legendary researcher Laura Mulvey. She revolutionized the language of the film, created feminist cinema, and showed an unknown female experience on the screen.
Interiors: kitchens, hotel corridors and rooms, railway compartments, stations, shopping centers and bars are her next important protagonists. Marked with melancholy and loss, these spaces resonate with loneliness and anxiety, the constant companions of the protagonists. She is interested in landscapes of interior life, landscapes of sadness. The constantly changing locales also trace the director’s nomadic life. Living between New York, Paris and Brussels, the artist who is constantly on the road has also made her style nomadic: she stepped between the cinema and the gallery, radically experimenting with style - she attempted to direct mainstream productions ( A Couch in New York, 1996), reached for comedy (the tragicomic American Stories, Food, Family and Philosophy, 1989), tested melodrama and musical (Golden Eighties, 1986). She is an essay master, an outstanding documentary filmmaker, author of numerous installations, who made works lasting over three hours as well as short films. She shot in France, Belgium, the United States, Mexico, Israel, Germany and Russia. In 1993, she made From the East, a portrait of Eastern Europe after the fall of communism. This part of the world interested her because of the fate of her parents - Polish Jews who survived the Holocaust. The Holocaust is a great theme of Akerman’s cinema, though often hidden, pulsing beneath the surface of seemingly neutral stories and images - such as the image of people waiting for a train in From the East.
But a momentous theme of her cinema is also the mother - the personification of the strongest bond, the most powerful oppression, a home lost and endlessly sought. It is no accident that her final film is entitled No Home Movie (2015). It is a documentary consisting of conversations with her mother, of course in the kitchen.
The Chantal Akerman retrospective will be accompanied by the publication of the Polish edition of the director's book, My Mother Laughs (Ma mère rit) and the performance of Chantal? by cellist Sonia Wieder-Atherton.
(1950 - 2015) Daughter of Jewish emigrants from Poland, was one of the most distinguished European avant-garde artists. She was influenced by the cinema of Jean-Luc Godard and relations with New York underground directors. There, impressed by the works of Stan Brakhage, Jonas Mekas and particularly Michael Snow, she made her first feature Hôtel Monterey (1972). Later on, in Europe, she directed feminist films, which experiment with narrative and are shot in slow rhythm with long takes.
1972 Hôtel Monterey
1974 Ja, ty, on, ona / Je, tu, il, elle / I, You, He, She
1975 Jeanne Dielman, Bulwar Handlowy, 1080 Bruksela / Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du commerce, 1080 Bruxelles
1977 Wieści z domu / News from Home
1978 Spotkania Anny / Les Rendez-vous d’Anna / Meetings with Anna
1982 Przez całą noc / Toute une nuit / A Whole Night
1983 Un jour Pina a demandé / One Day Pina Asked Me
1986 Złote lata 80. / Golden Eighties
1986 Letters Home
1989 Amerykańskie historie / Histoires d’Amérique / American Stories, Food, Family and Philosophy
1991 Nuit et jour / Night and Day
1996 Kanapa w Nowym Jorku / Un divan a New York / A Couch in New York
1999 Południe / Sud / South
2000 Uwięziona / La captive / The Captive
2004 Jutro przeprowadzka / Demain on déménage / Tomorrow We Move
2006 Tam / Là-bas / Down There
2011 Szaleństwo Almayera / La folie Almayer / Almayer’s Folly
2015 No Home Movie