News from Home

  • Directed by Chantal Akerman
  • France/Belgium/West Germany, 1977, 85 mins., French

Akerman returned to New York in 1976, having blazed a trail in Europe with her extraordinary Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles. She was travelling back to a city of decay (decidedly not decadence) with letters her mother had written to her when she was in New York in 1972. These letters provide the soundtrack for News From Home—accounts of daily life, life as lived in distant Belgium, invoked by means of observation and parcels of news. Who is addressing whom is no simple matter. The film shows New York, its streets, subways, tall buildings, diners and citizens going about their business. Sound might be in sync or not. Akerman has described her murmuring voiceover of her mother’s letters as psalmody (the singing of psalms or sacred canticles in public worship), which evokes the prayerful effect, the mingling of longing, the provoking of guilt and the offer of love. The closing scenes of departure and voyage play without the presence of the voice. Such an absence allows perhaps for a new note of optimism—to proceed, one must depart. “One of the best depictions of the alienation of exile that I know.”—Jonathan Rosenbaum.

Other Films by Chantal Akerman

Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles

Chantal Akerman’s Jeanne Dielman and Saute ma ville are both depictions of a woman’s work in the home, but portray two women who approach domestic tasks very differently. The mother, Jeanne Dielman, performs sex work for male clients daily for her and her son’s subsistence. Like her other activities (bathing, knitting, and shining her shoes),

Rue Mallet-Stevens, Hôtel Monterey & Trois strophes sur le nom de Sacher (1972-1989)

This program presents three Chantal Akerman films from 1972 to 1986, including one of her first feature films made in New York which foregrounds her long takes of interior spaces that frame human encounters and memory of their presence or absence. The films also introduce Akerman’s first collaborations with the cellist Sonia Wieder-Atherton. Rue Mallet-Stevens

Le 15/8 & Dis-moi

These three early Chantal Akerman films (spanning the 1970s) bring together different structures by which Akerman finds her own voice—through listening to her mother, through a surrogate young woman, and through listening to the voices of three grandmothers she interviews. Domestic scenes that demand daily chores and food preparation identify the roles of these women;

Lettre d’un cinéaste, Chantal Akerman par Chantal Akerman & Autour de “Jeanne Dielman”

This program presents three films across three decades on artist/filmmaker Chantal Akerman, who directs two of the films in which she interrogates herself as subject alongside the nature and raison d’etre of cinema itself. In Lettre de Cineaste (1984), Akerman with Aurore Clément as a kind of stand-in or proxy asks “What is cinema for?

Letters Home

CANCELLED—On 11 February 1963, Sylvia Plath, poet and author of The Bell Jar, thirty years old, married, with two children, killed herself. In 1975, Sylvia Plath’s mother, Aurelia Schober Plath, published Letters Home: Correspondence 1950-1963, an edited volume of her late daughter’s letters. In 1979, Rose Leiman Goldemberg wrote Letters Home, an off-Broadway hit which addressed the