Aged only 18 Akerman travelled to the US after giving up on film school in Belgium. In New York she encountered Warhol, Snow and Mekas. She then made films that put her on the map, revealing an astonishing talent – taking the best of New York experimentation, blending it with an acute European feel for narrative, introspection and intensity of feeling. In her earliest film work we see Akerman's eye at work registering the transient, studyingspaces that frame lived life – catching the feel and mood of hotels, rented rooms, urban back streets – and the people who move and exist within these confines.
Je Tu Il Elle (1974) was Akerman’s first feature-length film. Daringly, it is composed of long blocks of static black-and-white takes, coolly reminiscent of the films of Andy Warhol. Narrative takes time to register. She is in frame throughout - weaving a filmic weft that surprises and compels. The scene of this woman, naked and alone, compulsively eating sugar, is remarkable for its intensity, as is the footage of her arranging and rearranging the meagre furniture in her apartment. The woman hitchhikes, and rewards the truck driver with a sexual favour. Other notorious adventures follow.
As Andrea Weiss has pointed out, the “absolutely un-eroticised lesbian love-making scene must be credited for its courage in 1974, especially given that it includes the filmmaker in the scene”. Akerman with plain day lighting, super-realitic sound de-aestheticises love-making, making us aware as spectators of our own off-screen voyeurism. She never romanticises or filters what the lens sees.
Judith Mayne: “One could hardly find a contemporary woman’s film more saturated with authorial signature than Je Tu Il Elle”. It is perhaps the difficulty of this avant-garde re-representation of the female body that makes this film so memorable.
Cinemas confirmed so far:
Hackney Picturehouse; Stratford East Picturehouse; Greenwich Picturehouse; Harbour Lights Picturehouses, Southampton; Little Theatre Cinema, Bath; Regal Picturehouse, Henley-on-Thames; Phoenix Picturehouse, Oxford; Abbeygate Cinema, Bury St Edmunds; Cinema City, Norwich; Picturehouse at FACT, Liverpool; City Screen York; The Cameo, Edinburgh; Picturehouse at National Media Museum; Duke of York’s, Brighton; Clapham Picturehouse; Stratford-Upon-Avon Picturehouse; Ritzy Brixton; CCA Glasgow.