I love the Criterion Collection. Those people put out all kinds of wonderful films that would otherwise have to be obtained illegally or by visiting film archives. Recently they have put a spotlight on Belgian filmmaker Chantal Akerman. Her feminist masterpiece Jeanne Dielman (1975) finally got a proper release back in the Fall with a Criterion release and now there is an Eclipse series from the Criterion Collection of five Akerman films from the 1970’s. I have started into that series with this film.
Being a French speaking Belgian who went through her adolescence in the 1960’s it’s no surprise that she would be influenced by the French New Wave. The film has tracking shots a plenty and sets that remind me of those from Jacques Tati’s Playtime (1967) in their ultra-modern and empty appearance with seeming interchangeability. Unfortunately, Akerman has drunk a little too much from the Godard brand of the French New Wave cinematic wine. Fortunately, it doesn’t totally ruin the film, it just makes it very tough to watch for the novice.
The film is composed of five different encounters that Anna, a film director modeled on Akerman herself, has with five different people as she travels across Europe to promote her film. Sometimes strangers sometimes friends or family. At the center of the story is the theme of having no real home, no real relationships, and no country. Just being adrift. The third guy she talks to sums it up best when he says, “This’ll be my sixth country. This time it will be the right one. I’m sure of it.”
This film is beautiful, but the barriers to enjoying it mean I can only suggest that if you have been properly prepared it’s worth a look.