Chantal Akerman and other Film Updates

Last week I was incredibly saddened to hear of the suicide of director Chantal Akerman who directed one of my favorite films from my recently completed BFI project Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles and in memory of her life Criterion made the films (to which they have the distribution rights) on Hulu. So I decided to watch a couple of them over the last few days.  Neither of which are will likely be something that many would have interest.

La Chambre – dir. Chantal Akerman – 6.0  In La Chambre we are sitting in the center of Chantal’s apartment slowly spinning around, for eleven minutes, that’s all. The most apt description would be experimental, but nearly as important is her art. What I can tell of Ms Akerman is that she wanted the viewer to be part of the moment with her and this is exactly what she accomplished.

Hotel Monterey – dir. Chantal Akerman – 6.3 Similar to La Chambre, Hotel Monterey is a silent experiment in time as Akerman travels through a run-down hotel in New York and filming whatever she felt needed to be filmed. Sometimes the camera moves sometimes the terrain moves, sometimes nothing moves. You are in the moment with her.

Shame – dir. Ingmar Bergman – 7.1 Shame is difficult to explain. It is the story of a couple who moves to a remote island to escape a war which eventually manages to follow them. The way Liv Ullman explains it in an interview may be best (paraphrased) the film is Bergman’s attempt to make a film about conflict that will not ignore the consequences. It does not shy away from showing a dead (acting) child, or bodies flowing in the water because that is war. Shame is a very fine film.

Summer with Monika – dir. Ingmar Bergman – 6.3  I do not understand the high appeal of Summer with Monika. It was an interesting film, sure, but it is clear to be that it is a film by a, then, inexperienced, director.  In the film Monika and Harry, played by Harriet Andersson and Lars Ekborg, are coming into adulthood and decide to run away rather than in an everyday oppressed life. It is beautifully shot film but I, maybe, missed the point.

Haxan – dir. Benjamin Christensen – 5.6 If you want to watch a movie that show Satan “churning butter” then pop this one in. Haxan is a silent movie which gives an interesting history of witchcraft with over-the-top silent film performances and wonderful costumes. In the same breath of being silly it is very well made. In the DVD that I watched there is an edit of the film from the 60’s with William S. Burroughs narration and seemingly out of place beat jazz soundtrack. Unique.

The Phantom Carriage – dir. Victor Sjostrom – 6.1  I really enjoyed this film. Everything is great, the photography, the effects, the acting, everything, which is truly rare in my experience with silent films. The Phantom Carriage is an emotionally touching feature about redemption. Well worth the time.

One a personal note my heart is very heavy for how some people have handled the suicide making suggestions on Chantal Akerman’s frame of mind causing her suicide. They are suggesting that it is the poor reception of her new film No Home Movie. Whether this is true or not it is pure speculation and can only tarnish her memory and legacy. I don’t need to know what triggered what. All I need to know is how her movies have effected my life and my experience.

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