Monday, May 2, 2016


No Home Movie is a low-key love letter to Chantal Akerman's family. Specifically her mother. Akerman's sister Sylviane makes an appearance at one point and there are constant references to her father, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. But at the end of the day this is a film about her mom. In No Home Movie Chantal Akerman places cameras throughout her mother's apartment and observes her over the course of what seems like a few months. It should be noted that Akerman's own presence in the film is rather cryptic. We never see a full-on shot of Chantal but rather half shots of her face through Skype chats, her voice off camera, or shots of her back. What's even more cryptic (and a little heartbreaking) is that there are a few lines of dialogue in this film where she mentions her unhappinesss & depression to her mother through casual conversation (for those that don't know, she took her life late last year).
It's difficult for me to not be a little bitter towards certain circumstances surrounding her death. My love of Akerman's work is documented on this site going back to almost day one. That's something a lot of these bandwagon film sites & publications can't say. I find it funny reading all these pieces dedicated to Akerman after her death yet when she was alive her worked had been trashed and bad-mouthed by some of the very same publications in recent years (obviously not all, but still...). And what's even more frustrating is that her career spans over 40 years yet the main/only film people focus on is Jeanne Dielman... when, in my opinion, isn't even her best work. It's certainly iconic and worthy of all the praise it's gotten (and as you'll see in a few moments I use quite a few images from the film) but there's so much more to discuss (her semi-autobiographical Rendezvous D'Anna is a film worthy of the same over-analysis & dissection in my opinion).

Putting aside all the obvious influences that Jeanne Dielman... has had on art house cinema throughout the years...
Jeanne Dielman.../Safe (Todd Haynes)

Jeanne Dielman... / Safe 

Jeanne Dielman... / Silent Light (Todd Haynes)

Akerman has also influenced Claire Denis...
Rendezvous D'anna / Vers Nancy
Tout Une Nuit / U.S. Go Home

Abdellatif Kechiche...
Je Tu Il Elle / Blue Is The Warmest Color

Lodge Kerrigan...
Jeanne Dielman / Clean, Shaven

And I feel like Jim Jarmusch has a spiritual connection to Akerman as well...
News From Home / Permanent Vacation

No Home Movie has an additional layer as it's kind of an unofficial sequel to her 2002 film La Bas (like No Home Movie, La Bas takes place primarily in an apartment, we hear Akerman's voice off camera a lot, they have the same up close & personal/claustrophobic vibe, and both films reference Judaism and the same family members).

Not to make this too much about myself but No Home Movie made me contemplate the lives of the loved ones around me. My Grandmother passed away a few months ago (not that much soon after Chantal Akerman passed away). Actually, Akerman's mother reminded me of my late grandmother. They have some of the same mannerisms, they're around the same age, and they have plenty of stories to tell (who wouldn't have stories to tell when you reach your late 80's/early 90's). As I watched the elder Akerman tell stories of World War 2, escaping Poland, and overcoming anti-semitism, I was reminded of my Grandmother's stories concerning civil rights, "colored's only" sections and tales about my dad as a kid.
No Home Movie also doubles as a comment on how we sometimes treat the elderly. Not to ruffle any feathers but the way Akerman's sister speaks to their mother in certain scenes is a little bossy & lightly patronizing. But she's certainly not the only adult to speak to their elderly parent that way. A lot of folks are guilty of it which is why this film is so important & relevant.

No Home Movie is classic Akerman in the sense that time is taken very literally, the pacing is very slow and Akerman isn't concerned with editing or keeping the attention of the casual viewer. At the screening I went to there were quite a few walkouts which not only pissed me off, but also confused the hell out of me. I mean...Akerman's films aren't the kinds of movies you just casually stumble upon. By 2016 you should know what you're getting in to when it comes to one of her movies. Walking out of one of her (recent) films because it was "boring" kind of makes you look a little stupid in my eyes (just like people who still get worked up over the style in modern-day Terrence Malick films. Again - what the fuck were you expecting?)
I know this all sounds harsh and a little pretentious but Akerman's work meant a lot to me so it's hard to not take things personally. She not only influenced some of my favorite filmmakers (both directly & indirectly) but she had the kind of guts that you don't see in too many filmmakers (male or female). (Two-face) Publications like indiewire are always clamoring for strong female voices in film as if Akerman hadn't been around since the late 60's (maybe stop writing so many articles on Melissa McCarthy, Tina Fey & Cate Blanchett and shine a spotlight on Akerman's work).


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