is hard for cineastes to grasp how a filmmaker whose work has been given the
prestigious Criterion treatment could reportedly commit suicide while still
producing provocative work. Such appears to be the case with Chantal Akerman,
the celebrated director of Jeanne
Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles. Yet, Akerman’s former
production manager turned documentarian Marianne Lambert captured revealing
glimpses of the filmmaker that ring with significance after the fact. Although it
predates Akerman’s premature finality, those sad circumstances inevitably
inform Lambert’s I Don’t Belong Anywhere—the
Cinema of Chantal Akerman, which screens during the 2016 New York Jewish Film Festival.
is best known as a trailblazing experimental feminist filmmaker, but her later
films also explored the part-time Israeli resident’s Jewish Identity. However,
her final film, No Home Movie
intimately documented her failing mother’s last days. In Lambert’s relaxed
interview sequences, it is clear Akerman was still emotionally reeling from the
loss of her mother. Based on news accounts, we can surmise this depression took
a fatal toll.
Akerman is mostly a rather lively and charming presence in IDBA. Yet, the flashes of darkness are inescapable. Regardless, she
gives Lambert considerable insights into her diverse filmography, including her
mainstream rom-com A Couch in New York, co-starring
Juliette Binoche and William Hurt. She
also revisits her intense early work, like Je
Tu Il Elle, which in retrospect now looks like an early forerunner of Blue is the Warmest Color. There is also
something appealing about Akerman’s aversion to labels, which often manifested
in a reluctance to allow its screening at thematically LGBT festivals.
There are notable exceptions, but IDBA is generally more accessible than
the films it analyzes. As a filmmaker, Lambert is unflaggingly sensitive and
respectful, but through no fault of her own, the cinematic portrait still feels
uncomfortably revealing in light of subsequent events. Illuminating but deeply
depressing, I Don’t Belong Anywhere—the Cinema
of Chantal Akerman screens Wednesday evening (1/20) at the Walter Reade
Theater, as part of this year’s NYJFF.
Labels: Chantal Akerman, Documentary, NYJFF '16