Histoires d’Amérique (1989) opens with a haunting shot of a ship arriving in America, New York city’s skyline. Sonia Wieder Atherton’s cello sketches the melody of the Kol Nidre. Voices whisper in Polish. Then we hear fragments of Hebrew prayers. Akerman’s voice tells a Hasidic story about prayer and dislocation. She says ‘my own story is full of blanks and I do not even have a child’. This opens the film.
For Alfred Hitchcock the “purest form of cinema” was exhibited by the silent era. Even prior to the medium’s natural progression into audible dialogue, directors such as Buster Keaton and F.W Murnau went so far as to minimise the use of intertitles (as seen, respectively, in the 1921 short The Boat and 1924’s The Last Laugh) to prioritise visual expression. In a slender timeframe of two years we’ve had The Artist (2011) and Blancanieves (2012), two eulogies to the early days of filmmaking. One particular feature – possibly the only one to stir critical debate at this year’s Cannes Film Festival – that goes beyond mere homage or lamentation is Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy’s The Tribe.