An enduring privilege given to any artist is one where their flaws, or, forced to remove their most precious elements from a final piece, become benefits. Franz Kafka’s incomplete novels have attained aesthetic value with, as far as I’m aware, no reproach. Why the opposite is applied to cinema indicates the lack of encouragement for questioning an image or the gaps between each one. Even when Maurice Pialat’s violently elliptical narratives reveal their errors, the emotional tension and vocation it offers us to act as investigators brings more joy than frustration. There was a similar pleasure after seeing Cristi Puiu’s Sieranevada.
I was invited to an event by Linda Brandon who was Director of Talks at the ICA – she was going to be in conversation with Chantal Akerman. This was in the late 1980’s. The event took place in what is now called the Brandon Room, named after Linda to commemorate her life and work, when she died only a few years after this event.
Linda was part of a circle of close friends that included her partner Margo, the writer and curator Helena Blaker and her partner Nicola, along with Linda’s childhood friend the painter Celia Paul. Linda and I were both sitting for Celia who was painting and drawing us and this went on for many years.
This interview was conducted at Film Society of Lincoln Center in June 2015
Kent Jones is primarily recognised as a film critic, writing for Film Comment (where he was 'editor-at-large'), Cahiers du Cinéma and Sight & Sound. After his tenure at the Film Society of Lincoln Center as associate director he is now director of the New York Film Festival. In between these roles he has worked as an archivist on 1995's A Personal Journey with Martin Scorsese Through American Cinema and directed the documentaries Val Lewton: The Man in the Shadows (2007), A Letter to Elia (2010, co-directed with Martin Scorsese) and Hitchcock/Truffaut (2015).
Mick McAloon: At what stage did you realise you wanted to be a writer?
Kent Jones: That’s funny that you should ask me that because I resisted the idea. Because I had people telling me you’re a wonderful writer. And of course when you’re young—at least that was the fashion when I was young, but that still seems to be the case because I see it in my son—but when you’re young and people tell you, “You’re great at this, and you should do this…” the response is: check: I’m not doing that. That’s off the list. Nobody gets to define me but myself. You all get to do it in public. I get to do it in private. Here’s what I’m doing. But, of course, that’s just telling yourself something. So I started writing when I was very young. And then I kept writing…
This article was originally published in 2015 for Moving Image Review & Art Journal,
4 (1&2). pp. 287-292. ISSN 2045-6298
Ne me lâche pas, pas encore. Je ne suis pas prête et peut être que je ne serais jamais prête. Chantal Akerman (2013)
At Ambika P3 London, we have just opened Chantal Akerman: NOW an exhibition of seven installation works by the acclaimed Belgian film-maker and artist. Summarizing Chantal’s achievements over a 44-year career, Adam Roberts wrote:
Chantal Akerman is widely considered to be one of the most unpredictable, farsighted, indefinable, rigorous and playful film artists of her generation. While showing the troublesome complexity of human existence, Akerman’s works are filled with beautiful imagery, music, magic of chance, yearning and hope, yet she also investigates hot-button themes such as racism in the American South, illegal immigration, and terrorism in the Middle East. Chantal Akerman was one of the first to move from independent film-making to embrace the gallery space in the mid 1990s. Her work pursues her obsession with borders and tensions between documentary and fiction, between her mother and herself, between chaos and control, art and history.
Chantal took her own life on Monday 5 October 2015 at the age of 65, just three weeks before the exhibition was to open. The curators A Nos Amours (Joanna Hogg, Adam Roberts) and myself had been working closely with Chantal on the exhibition for over eighteen months.