Chantal Akerman is a remarkably versatile filmmaker who combines an innately humanist approach to observation with a keen, often forbidding sense of film language. She died last year, leaving behind a remarkable body of work.
Akerman’s assured framing, built out of radical ellipses that cut in blocks of real time, are a rare and powerful example of what she called “a phenomenological sensibility.” She has been compared to the late, legendary French director, Gus van Sant.
JEANNE DIELMAN (1975)
Almost three and a half hours long, Jeanne Dielman depicts the day-to-day routine of a widowed single mother named in the title (played by Delphine Seyrig) as she performs a series of menial household chores. The film’s formally austere aesthetic and formal simplicity enact an urgent statement of feminist politics.
The film’s first hour establishes an ordered, unwavering sequence of menial tasks enacted over a day of uninterrupted labor. Throughout, director Chantal Akerman and cinematographer Babette Mangolte depict Jeanne with a precise, laboriously prescribed composure.
However, the computative clarity of the schedule imposed upon the audience starts to break down as disruptions in her routine become more frequent. Moreover, the formal austerity persists, even as Jeanne’s anxious state becomes more pronounced with each passing moment of disarray.
One scene stands out as particularly tense and revealing. In the evening, Jeanne sits at the dining table, her hand spotted with blood. As she closes her eyes, a curious smile appears and fades.
The film form is an internal system in the movie that manages to put the pieces of the scenes into unified formal shape. It has a relation with the spectator of the movie and also with the listener of the music and the reader of the book.
The form of any artwork is very important and reveals its artistic content. Moreover, it is a way to create a motive for the spectator and engage him in some activities. It raises his feelings and mind and absorbs his tension, so that he can forget all the demands he has in his daily life.
In Chantal Akerman’s work, the sound/image relations are often complex and hypnotic. Her film sound reflects a more sophisticated understanding of acoustic and temporal space than that found in commercial cinema.
A byproduct of the analog film-making process, film grain is a visual texture that appears on images developed from photochemical film. The small particles of silver halide crystals that form a film image create random fluctuations in the visual texture of the film as it is processed.
Digital cameras capture high-resolution, crisp pictures without the appearance of film grain. However, some filmmakers still like the gritty feel that celluloid films bring to their films – and are using film grain texture in post-production to recreate this look.
Texture is a term used to describe elements of film that aren’t part of the plot but add to the overall mood and style of the film. This can include ominous sound effects, top lighting, wide-angle photography and more.
Although most movies are now shot on digital cameras, some filmmakers want to emulate the gritty look of celluloid films – and film grain is an easy way to do this. This technique is quick, simple and effective, but you need to be careful when emulating film with overlays.
When the magazine Sight & Sound polled critics to select their best films of the decade, Chantal Akerman’s groundbreaking 1975 drama topped the list. This marked the first time a woman had made the top of this poll in 70 years.
Performance is a masterpiece of British cinema, and has spawned many legacies. It is credited with bringing Mick Jagger and Ry Cooder together to write the song “Memo from Turner” which was later reused for Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas, and its cult following remains strong.
The film also reflects on the entropic contamination of domesticity and tragedy, order and disorder. It evokes the director’s experiences with her mother and aunt as they cleaned and cooked in their kitchen, an instinct she absorbed while growing up in Belgium.
In her films, Akerman exploits the film medium in particular ways, so that viewers are constantly aware of watching events unfold through film. She takes advantage of film’s diverse temporal possibilities to open up screen space and amplify the rhythmic pulse of the story’s pacing.