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Je tu il elle

Like her spare, haunting portrait of a wandering filmmaker Les Rendez-vous d’Anna (1978), Akerman originally wrote Je tu il elle as a short story, and her imposition of a set of minimalist constraints creates space for an exploration of utter dissociation. Acting as herself, Akerman compulsively rearranges her few items of furniture, eats only from a bag of sugar, writes and rewrites a letter to a real or potential lover (rearranging the various drafts in a series of piles like a game of solitaire), and takes off her clothes and drapes them over her body. From the start, the film makes it clear that we cannot trust temporal continuity; the first line corresponds to the last action of the film. It is physical but formal. White bodies on white sheets. The film provides neither catharsis nor thesis. “[Chantal Akerman] movies give cinema heft. They have the rigour of a Poussin painting. She looks longer and harder than most directors, and almost seems to stop film’s flicker.”—Mark Cousins.

Other Films by Chantal Akerman

Nuit et jour (Night and Day)

Julie and Jack, recently arrived in Paris, are a young couple from the provinces who spend their days making love and their nights apart, while Jack drives a taxi and Julie walks the streets, waiting for him to come home.  Their vague aspirations take a backseat to their constant passion. “Music” resonates throughout—Julie sings wordlessly

From the Other Side

On the Mexico-US border, the twin towns of Agua Prieta, Sonora and Douglas, Arizona—far from the population centers of Juarez/El Paso or Tijuana/San Diego—are home to both hopeful, persistent immigrants and resilient, spiteful permanent residents. As with most of Akerman’s documentary work, she brings a keen, searching eye to this most barren of places, in

Sud

The work of James Baldwin and William Faulkner long influenced Chantal Akerman’s work and life, and she had long planned to shoot a film about the American south — and finally, an opportunity came just before the new millennium. But in Jasper, Texas, mid-1998, James Byrd, Jr., an African-American man, was dragged behind a vehicle

Toute une nuit

One summer night in Brussels, sweltering heat stifles the community, which draws people out of their comfort zone and into despair. Akerman explores a series of on-the-brink relationships—break-ups, reconciliations—in the context of this hottest night of the year, where defenses are built, but at the same time, are down. Nearly wordless yet filled with subtle

Almayer’s Folly

With Almayer’s Folly, Akerman tackles the terrible legacy of the European colonial project in Southeast Asia head-on through an adaptation of Joseph Conrad’s late-19th-century novel of the same name. Crucially, Akerman makes a handful of changes, transposing Conrad’s Cambodia for Malaysia and Conrad’s 19th Century for the 1950s, the tail end of direct colonial control.