Chantal Akerman par Chantal Akerman

(Chantal Akerman, France, 1996)


Although it seemed unlikely from the blurb in the catalogue – how illuminating could a mere series of clips, with an introductory statement, be? – the autoportrait Chantal Akerman by Chantal Akerman was, for me, one of the loveliest and most moving films of the Rotterdam Film Festival of 1997.

Made for (and against) the French television series Cinéma de notre temps, it is in fact structured rather like Philip Tydnall’s Words and Silk (1990): a poetically constructed free montage (in which the director, as she avows, treats her past work as rushes, raw material for a new, imaginary film) butted up against a brutally plain and frank into-camera address by the artist.

Finally, the piece becomes an investigation into the ways and means of this very genre of the self-portrait, with all its attendant paradoxes and impossibilities: a series of attempts at representing one’s self, from the swirl of clips that evoke, however obliquely, the stages of Akerman’s autobiography (solitary childhood, rebellious adolescence, the place of the mother, bisexual explorations), to the final, perfect declaration: “My name is Chantal Akerman, I was born in Brussels – that’s true. That’s true”.

MORE Akerman: The Captive, Golden Eighties, Les Rendez-vous d’Anna, A Couch in New York, Saute ma ville, Tomorrow We Move

© Adrian Martin March 1997

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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