Starting from age 18 with her rumbustiously deadpan short Saute Ma Ville (1968), some of Akerman’s themes were already set in stone: buildings as manifested inner prisons, angst and domestic rituals. Moving to New York City in the 1970s was paramount in stylistic development. Soaking up the work of underground luminaries like Andy Warhol, Michael Snow and Jonas Mekas, both Hotel Monterey and La Chambre exhibit the notoriously unwavering rigour aficionados knew her for. The latter being one of my favourites, it presents a concise (approx. 10 minutes) ruminative abstraction of observation that subjects our gaze to the director’s inside a crammed studio apartment. This, including customary cinematographer Babette Mangolte’s languid 360 to rigid 180 degree camera pans, lucidly transmits anxieties of entrapment.
Jeanne Dielman remains the most well-known, having become a feminist manifesto and paragon for subversive and minimalist filmmaking. As mentioned earlier, Chantal left one of the most fertile filmographies, showcasing an unquenchable interest in cinematic styles that would trump our expectations whilst continually challenging our preconceptions of their specifics.
With the thought of film school always lingering the past two years of this retrospective has been an invaluable education. A maverick that freely explored many frontiers of the world and her medium, Chantal demonstrated the endless creative possibilities of visual storytelling. The inherent menace and sadness of her work will be amplified for the final two screenings. Such an affectionate and expansive catalogue, however, displays what cinema has gained rather than lost.