“CHANTAL AKERMAN BY CHANTAL AKERMAN”— An Avant-Garde and Feminist Moviemaker


An Avant-Garde and Feminist Moviemaker

Amos Lassen

Chantal Ackerman was a French/Belgian/Jewish/Lesbian filmmaker Chantal Akerman who died in 2015 left her mark on world of cinema especially with regard to avant-garde and feminist filmmaking. She made over forty and installations that include the recurrent themes of domesticity, sex and alienation and these themes have come to define her oeuvre. Her films often explored these themes through the eyes of female protagonists and sedately blurred the lines between film and performance., unspooling at a sedate pace and blurring the boundary between film and performance. Akerman was the artist that introduced a female voice into the world of modernist cinema.

As she did this she gave new meaning to the term “independent film”. Her movies were radical and original works and she gained her high praise from cinephiles around the world. Her films have become not only important but also integral to feminist film theory and they broke boundaries between realist and avant-garde genres.

In “Chantal Ackerman by Chantal Ackerman”, we get a candid, intimate glimpse of Akerman, the woman. 

In part one we meet Akerman in her apartment, describing the problems she encountered making this film directly to the camera. What comes out of this is a funny, often personal, and always thoughtful confession from her. in part two lets Akerman’s films speak for her. We have clips from her extensive filmography that when linked give us a new film. Scenes included are from “Jeanne Dielman”, “23”, “quai du Commerce” and “1080 Bruxelles” which is her best-known work. These are interspersed with glimpses of several other works including experimental film, comedic shorts, musicals, narrative features, and an early short that stars a very young Chantal.

In making this film, Akerman has created a fascinating self-portrait that takes us through her career. On board also are critics Emmanuel Burdeau and Jean Narboni and filmmaker Luc Moullet.

Before making this, Akerman envisioned a film consisting solely of excerpts from her films, but because she was pressed by the producers to include footage of herself, she grudgingly agreed, and divided the film into two parts.

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