Chantal Akerman fell in love with cinema when she saw Godard's Pierrot le fou as a teenager. At 18, she completed her first short, and at 25, directed Jeanne Dielman, which propelled her into the ranks of internationally recognized auteurs. Since then, she has made about 40 works - from 35mm features to video essays to experimental documentaries - always mixing high art with popular culture, minimalist rigor with physical exuberance.
She was born in Brussels, capital of Belgium-its gray winters, cloudy skies and hazy light were once captured by Flemish painting. Her parents were Holocaust survivors from Poland. They did not care about cinema and cared even less about passing that painful part of Jewish history to their children. Yet this "nothing" they refused to talk about became the core of Akerman's inspiration.
Many of her films are about a girl/woman whose desires, passions, longings, and obsession with an unspoken past are too big to be contained in Brussels alone. In her films, women run away, cut classes, hitch-hike, sleeplessly walk the streets at night, love two people at the same time, strive to marry the wrong person, stalk female ex-lovers, commit murders, travel throughout Europe, go to America, to Eastern Europe, illegally cross borders - in situations that range from the banal to the surreal.
A seductive emotional violence bursts at the seams. Language often drifts, a love letter turns into an obsessive diary or a schmaltzy song, a simple note into a surrealist catalogue, a word of consolation into a list of possible catastrophes. The excess contained in Akerman's signature frontal shots pours out in language, in pleasure. A true independent filmmaker, Akerman writes or co-writes all her screenplays, and her films outline an autobiography of sorts, willfully exploding the boundaries of sex, race, ethnicity, genre, language, and geography. (BR)
To screen as many works as possible and display all the facets of Akerman's career, REDCAT is presenting this program in collaboration with the UCLA Film and Television Archive.
ALL PROGRAMS SUBJECT TO CHANGE.
In this modern-day adaptation of the fifth volume of Marcel Proust's Remembrance of Things Past, Simon lives a comfortable bourgeois existence while keeping Ariane, a young woman of unclear social status, in his apartment. Suspecting her of loving women, he spies on her and relentlessly questions her to find out if she's "lying." What unsettles him, ultimately, is the enigma of femininity. For a female director, the challenge posed by the Proustian text is that Marcel/Simon is constructed as the subject of desire - who acts upon it, obsesses about it, suffers from it - and Albertine/Ariane is its unfathomable object. Akerman's interpretation produces a more interesting (transgressive) structure: a woman attempting to look at another woman who loves women through the eyes of a man who tortures himself by trying to understand female homosexuality from the inside. (BR, Afterall Magazine)
Producer: Paulo Branco. Screenwriters: Chantal Akerman, Eric de Kuyper. Cinematographer: Sabine Lancelin. Editor: Claire Atherton. With: Sylvie Testud, Stanislas Mehrar, Olivia Bonamy, Aurore Clément. 35mm, French with English subtitles, 112 min., West Coast premiere
We are sorry to announce that due to unforeseen circumstances, Chantal Akerman will be unable to attend the screening.
Thursday, March 11, 2004
A voice, a body, an empty apartment, the lure of the off-screen. In a series of frontal, static shots of uneven length and framing, Akerman stages a witty, subtly ironic monologue delivered by the great actor Sami Frey. Like a middle-aged precursor of Simon in La Captive, he desires what he cannot have and mourns what he never had. In his previous apartment, he fell in love with the three girls living next door. They're gone now, and he's moved. As he talks, the frame becomes tighter, suggesting emotions that no words can capture. (BR)
Producer: Sophie Goupil. Screenwriter: Chantal Akerman. Cinematographer: Raymond Fromont. Editor: Rudy Marten. With: Sami Frey. 35mm, in French with English subtitles, 35mm 42 min., West Coast premiere
AMERICAN STORIES/FOOD, FAMILY AND PHILOSOPHY
The film alternates climactic moments--love stories, tales of immigration and family feuds, indelible traces left by pogroms or concentration camps-with less narrative and even seemingly "trivial" or "corny" elements (street philosophy, ghetto humor, Jewish jokes) before sinking into a sort of intentional insignificance, in a restaurant scene that is almost too long. A film that deals with the phantom of language, memory, oblivion, the vacuousness of words, American Stories is haunted by the void. yet this void itself has a history-that of the silence of the Holocaust survivors who, to spare their children, have left them with only a Jewish name emptied of its content--a name that burns a hole in the fabric of reality. (BR, Cahiers du cinéma).
Producers: Bertrand Van Effenterre/Mallia Films and Marilyn Watelet/Paradise Films. Screenwriter: Chantal Akerman. Cinematographer: Luc Benhamou. Editor: Patrick Mimouni. With: Eszter Balint, George Bartenieff, Judith Malina, Roy Nathanson. 35mm, in English, 92 min.
Friday March 12, 2004
Although this event is free, please call the REDCAT box office to make a reservation for guaranteed seating.
PORTRAIT OF A YOUNG GIRL FROM THE LATE SIXTIES IN BRUSSELS
(Portrait d'une jeune fille de la fin des années 60, à Bruxelles)
April 1968. 15-year old Michèle has a secret crush on her best friend at school. As Danielle's confidante, she is an accomplice, the unwitting witness of the latter's awkward search for a "dream man." Michè le escapes her predicament by cutting out of school, smoking by herself, and going to the movies, where she meets Paul, a handsome and sensitive deserter. The unlikely pair hit it off and start walking the streets of Brussels together. As the afternoon draws on, they make love - her first time. In the evening, she meets Danielle at a party, and, adamantly, lovingly, makes a surprising decision. (BR)
Producer: Georges Benayoun/IMA. Screenwriter: Chantal Akerman. Cinematographer: Raymond Fromont. Editor: Martine Lebon. With: Circé, Julien Rassam, Joelle Marlier. 35mm, in French with English subtitles, 60 min., West Coast premiere
Chantal Akerman (screenplay, voice over), Sonia Wieder-Atherton (music) and Catherine Deneuve (actor) team up to mourn the murder of Salvadorean union activist Febe Elisabeth Velásquez in this short piece produced for Amnesty International. Beta SP, French with English subtitles, 3.40 min., West Coast premiere
A VOICE IN THE DESERT
(Une voix dans le désert)
Conceived as part of a three-part installation, the piece recycles images of Akerman's documentary on the U.S/Mexico border, From the Other Side (shown at REDCAT March 14, 9 pm and at UCLA March 19, 7:30 p.m.). In a frame at the center of the screen, U.S. border patrol surveillance footage alternates with shots of the freeway entering Los Angeles, while Akerman's voice repeats in Spanish then in English, again and again, the story of a female Mexican immigrant who has disappeared in Los Angeles. As dawn breaks, the outside image is slowly revealed: a desert landscape. In the center, a screen is hanging, on which the visual/aural loop, now washed up by the ambient light, is projected. A haunting, meditative, unforgettable experience of cinema in its relationship to loss and to the passing of time. (BR)
Producer: Philippe Bouychou. Screenwriter: Chantal Akerman. Cinematographer: Robert Fenz. Voice over: Chantal Akerman. DVD, English and Spanish, 52 min., courtesy Marian Goodman Gallery, New York/Paris; Frith Street Gallery, London.-U.S. premiere of the single channel version
A loving, intimate portrait of a talented cellist (who is also the composer of the soundtrack to some of Akerman's films), the piece is an elegant mise en scène of music itself - and the way it inhabits the emotions and the body of its interpreter. In top form as a director, Akerman translates music into images, the world of pure sound into that of cinema - drawing from both the history of music and that of the visual arts: framing/masking, perspective, chiaroscuro, the subtle movements of light sculpting a hand, a face, a space, like in a Flemish painting. At the suggestion of a few words, spoken by the director in a confessional tone, music becomes biography, yet remains pure form; the invisible becomes visible, even physical, and touches our souls like the delicate hand of an angel. (BR)
Producer: AMIP/ARTE/INA. Writer/Voice over: Chantal Akerman. Cinematographer: Sabine Lancelin. Music: Anonymous (Jewish Prayer), Claudio Monteverdi, Luciano Berio, Leos Janacek, Johannes Brahms, Franz Shubert. Editor: Claire Atherton. With Sonia Wieder Atherton (cello) and Imogen Cooper (piano). Beta SP, no dialogue, brief French voice over with live simultaneous translation into English, 40 min., U.S. premiere
(Les Années 80)
Originally a blueprint for Window Shopping (1985), the film is also a serendipitous exercise in juxtaposing tantalizing bits of various film genres and textures - "not hesitating to push the situation toward melodrama - to use old vaudeville procedures such as recognitions, pursuits, confusing quarrels, cases of mistaken identity - while always intent on tearing away the cliché." (Chantal Akerman). The first hour, on video, is a montage of auditions. Songs and choreography are rehearsed by actors who respond to directions from Akerman. The second part, in 35mm, is a pilot for the film-to-be, a musical extravaganza set in a shopping mall. This is "Akerman's most playful, purely pleasurable film, raw but sensuous." (Jim Hoberman, The Village Voice)
Producer: Marilyn Watelet. Screenwriters: Chantal Akerman, Jean Gruault. Cinematographers: Michel Houssiau, Luc Benhamou. Editors: Nadine Keseman, Francine Sandberg. With: Aurore Clément, Magali Noël, Lio. 35mm, French with English subtitles, 96 min.
The news from home comes to the filmmaker in New York from her mother in Belgium in a series of "love letters". The text paints an intimate picture of family life, with its catalogue of minor illnesses, domestic routine, betrothals and financial anxieties. The elegiac emotionalism of the text is counter-pointed not only by the flat monotone of Akerman's recitation but also by the images of Manhattan as an alien, urban ghost town, its streets preternaturally empty. Babette Mangolte's extraordinary cinematography, most of it shot in the penumbral light that evokes a wistful solitude, flattens the city streets, suggesting a hermetic world of impenetrable surfaces. (Kay Armatage, Toronto International Film Festival)
Producer: Alain Dahan. Screenwriter: Chantal Akerman. Cinematographer: Babette Mangolte. Editor: Francine Sandberg. Voice Over: Chantal Akerman. 16mm, English voice over, 85 min.
Note: the print is in poor condition
FROM THE EAST
"I would like to make a grand journey across Eastern Europe. To Russia, Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, the former East Germany. I'd like to film there, in my own style of documentary bordering on fiction. Faces, streets, cars going by and buses, train stations and plains, rivers and oceans, fields and factories. Food, interiors, doors, windows, meals being prepared. Women and men, young and old, people passing by or at rest, seated or standing. All these countries in the throes of great change. Countries that have shared a common history since the war - now embarking on different paths. I would like to record the sounds of this land - voices that will tell stories both great and small, often very simple ones that we won't always need to understand but can grasp anyway, like music from a foreign land..." (Chantal Akerman)
Producers: Marilyn Watelet, François Le Bayon. Cinematographers: Raymond Fromont, Bernard Delville. Editor: Claire Atherton. 16 mm, ambient sound only, 107 min.
Originally conceived as a meditation on the beauty of the American south inspired by William Faulkner and James Baldwin, South was transformed by a racist crime that occurred days before the shoot. James Byrd, Jr., an African-American family man, was beaten by three white men, then chained to their pick-up truck and dragged through backroads. South is a reflection on this brutal slaying and its impact on the community. Akerman's classically composed shots seem suspended in time, not only as a result of their duration but also from the historical weight of the experiences recounted. Exploring the silent, heavy atmosphere of the countryside and neighborhood streets, they culminate in the final shot, taken from the back of a car, of the full three-mile length of road over which Byrd was dragged. (Kay Armatage, Toronto International Film Festival).
Producer: Xavier Carniaux/AMIP. Cinematographer: Raymond Fromont. Editor: Claire Atherton. Beta-SP, English, 70 min.
FROM THE OTHER SIDE
(De l'autre côté)
Agua Prieta and Douglas are two small towns planted on either side of the border between Mexico and the United States. Akerman alternately films these neighboring towns, so near and yet so far, separated by an insurmountable physical obstacle of barbed wire, gates and iron. Despite the danger, hundreds of Mexicans try to cross illegally every year. Exploring the border as a symbol of North-South divide and the ravages of globalization, Akerman nonetheless captures the desert, the horizon and the wide-open space - allowing audiences to make up their minds. After From the East and South, she concludes her documentary trilogy with a poignant, lyrical and provocative film. (Festival international nouveau Cinéma nouveaux Médias Montréal)
Producers: Xavier Carniaux, Marilyn Watelet, Thierry Garrel, et al. Screenwriter: Chantal Akerman. Cinematographers: Raymond Fromont, Robert Fenz, and Chantal Akerman. Editor: Claire Atherton. 35mm. French, Spanish and English, with English subtitles, 99 min., Los Angeles premiere of the 35mm print.
SPECIAL PACKAGE DEAL
Purchase a single ticket to see all four documetaries -- $20
|Wed 3.10.04 7:30pm ||$8||$8||$4|
|Thu 3.11.04 7:30pm||$8||$8||$4|
|Fri 3.12.04 7:30pm||$8||$8||$4|
|Sat 3.13.04 7:30pm||$8||$8||$4|
|Sun 3.14.04 7:30pm||$8||$8||$4|
G - General Audience
M - REDCAT Members
ST - Students
CA - CalArts Students/Faculty/Staff