In her own words
This week I watched Chantal Akerman par Chantal Akerman, a self-portrait of the Belgian filmmaker done in 1997 for the European television series Cinema, de notre temps. I would not have sought this film out had I not seen it listed by J. Hoberman as one of his choices for the ten best films of that year. And, as luck would have it, my university library happened to have a DVD copy. I can’t say that I see in it what Hoberman sees, but it does make for thought-provoking viewing whether or not one is new to Akerman. It runs sixty-four minutes and consists mostly of excerpts from Akerman’s films, presented non-chronologically and absent of any context. In addition to giving us a potent sampling of Akerman’s work—what it looks like, how it feels, its political edge, its dark comedy, its poetry—Akerman orders the footage suggestively in ways that draw our attention to the themes and continuities that have run through the first three decades of her career. The clips are bookended by brief scenes of Akerman at home, addressing us through the camera. As an introduction or a retrospective, it’s compelling and intelligent; but I’m not sure its sixty-four minutes wouldn’t be better spent watching one of Akerman’s films in its entirety (or working through the first third of Jeanne Dielman).