From the Other Side
MAXXI | National Museum of the XXI Century Arts, Rome
Chantal Akerman. From the Other Side is the most exhaustive retrospective given of the pioneering Belgian director’s film works in Italy since her death.
A never-ending source of inspiration for directors such as Gus Van Sant, Todd Haynes and Sofia Coppola, Chantal Akerman (1950 - 2015) was hailed by critics as one of the most influential directors of the European scene since the 1970s – when The New York Times described her celebrated Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (1975) as ‘the first masterpiece of the feminine in the history of the cinema’.
Her extraordinary filmography has relentlessly challenged the canonical boundaries between different forms of visual art and cinematic traditions, traversing movements and genres – from the French New Wave to New American Cinema. Over a career spanning nearly half a century, Akerman has created experimental films, documentaries, works inspired by other arts such as dance, sculpture and music, essayistic travelogues, musicals, sophisticated comedies and literary adaptations.
As a daughter of Polish Ashkenazi Jews who survived Auschwitz, Akerman saw her entire corpus of works permeated by what the filmmaker herself, on several occasions, defined ‘un esprit de contradiction’: chaos and order, interiors and interiority, presence and absence, confinement and travel, identity and memory are juxtaposed in a constant dialectic tension.
By breaking up and repositioning her feature film D’Est (1993) into triptychs of twenty-four video monitors at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, Akerman became one of the first filmmakers to venture along the path that bridges the darkened hall of the black box and the white cube of the gallery. In her moving image installations and films, history, memory, nomadism, alterity, performativity, female subjectivity, Jewish diasporic identity intertwine into a never-ending process of articulation and re-articulation of filmic time and space.
From her first short film Saute ma Ville (1968) to her final work No Home Movie (2015) the retrospective retraced the highlights of the journey which, from the quais of Brussels to New York City’s hotels, from the Parisian studios to the stations of Cologne, from the snowy streets of Moscow to the Texas cotton fields, from desert expanses on the border between Arizona and Mexico to the terraces of Tel Aviv, brought forth Akerman's nomadic images to redefine the relationship between cinema and the audience. An audience that, from the very beginning of her journey, the director encourages to be free, active, and self-aware.
Presented in their versions recently restored by the Cinémathèque Royale de Belgique, many of the films were translated and subtitled for Italian-speaking audiences for the first time anywhere. The retrospective opened with a talk and a live performance by Franco-American cellist Sonia Wieder-Atherton, who paid tribute to the the filmmaker playing in dialogue with the images of Saute ma ville.
Top: A still from Chantal Akerman’s
Je tu il elle (1974). Courtesy of the Cinémathèque royale de Belgique.
Bottom: MAXXI | National Museum of the XXI Century Arts, Rome.
© Iwan Baan.
Comparable in force and originality to Godard or Fassbinder, Chantal Akerman is arguably the most important European director of her generation.
— Jim Hoberman
with the support of