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Directed by Chantal Akerman

France, Belgium, West Germany 1977 85 mins. In 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.