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Repertory Picks

Formalist Akerman at the Cinémathèque Française

In Paris on Saturday—as part of a four-week retrospective celebrating the work of Chantal Akerman—the Cinémathèque française will present the director’s short La chambre (1972), screening in an hourlong program that also includes her very first film, Saute ma ville (1968), and the monologue Le déménagement (1992). In 1971, at the age of twenty, Akerman left her native Brussels for a stay in New York City, where she soaked up the influence of experimental filmmakers such as Michael Snow, Yvonne Rainer, and Jonas Mekas, and eventually teamed up with cinematographer Babette Mangolte (who would go on to shoot Akerman’s 1975 masterpiece Jeanne Dielman) to make two remarkable formalist shorts in 16 mm. In the silent, eleven-minute-long La chambre, the camera surveys the interior of a shoebox Manhattan apartment in slow, continuous 360-degree pans, taking stock of the cluttered furnishings—as well as a restless inhabitant played by Akerman herself, who assumes a number of positions as she gazes out at the camera from the bed. As critic Michael Koresky writes in his liner notes for our Eclipse set Chantal Akerman in the Seventies, this hypnotic early-career gem finds the filmmaker “creat[ing] tension through the slightest visual alterations, encouraging close study from the spectator,” thus anticipating much of her groundbreaking work to come.

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