Edit
Chantal Akerman Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (3) | Mini Bio (1) | Spouse (1) | Trivia (46) | Personal Quotes (1)

Overview (3)

Date of Birth 6 June 1950Brussels, Belgium
Date of Death 5 October 2015Paris, France  (suicide)
Birth NameChantal Anne Akerman

Mini Bio (1)

Chantal Akerman was born on June 6, 1950 in Brussels, Belgium as Chantal Anne Akerman. She was a director and writer, known for Un divan à New York (1996), Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (1975) and No Home Movie (2015). She was married to Sonia Wieder-Atherton. She died on October 5, 2015 in Paris, France.

Spouse (1)

Sonia Wieder-Atherton (? - 5 October 2015) (her death)

Trivia (46)

Biography in John Wakeman, editor. "World Film Directors, Volume Two, 1945-1985," pp. 3-8. New York: The H.W. Wilson Company, 1988.
Member of the 'Official Competition' jury at the 41st Berlin International Film Festival in 1991.
Member of the 'Official Competition' jury at the 43rd Venice International Film Festival in 1986.
Taught at Harvard University. [1997]
Lived most of her adult life in Paris, France.
Chantal Akerman was a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) since June 2014. She was in the branch of writers.
Akerman died on 5 October 2015. The newspaper La Monde reported that she committed suicide.
In 2011, she joined the full-time faculty of the MFA Program in Media Arts Production at the City College of New York.
She was the youngest of all the directors featured in the Sight & Sound Top 100 - she was just 24 when she made Jeanne Dielman, younger even than Orson Welles (25 when he made Citizen Kane), Sergei Eisenstein and François Truffaut (both 27 when they made Battleship Potemkin and Les Quatre Cents Coups respectively).
Her grandparents and her mother were sent to Auschwitz; only her mother came back. This was a very important factor in her personal experience.
Her mother's anxiety is a recurrent theme in her filmography.
Important solo exhibitions of Akerman's work have been held at the Museum for Contemporary Art, Antwerp, Belgium (2012), MIT, Cambridge Massachusetts (2008), the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Israel (2006); Princeton University Art Museum, Princeton, NJ (2006); and the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris (2003). Akerman has participated in Documenta XI (2002) and the Venice Biennale (2001). In 2011 a film retrospective of Akerman's work was shown at the Austrian Film Museum.
In 1971, her first film Saute ma ville (1968) premiered at the Oberhausen Short Film Festival. That year, she moved to New York, where she remained until 1972.
A leading figure in European experimental cinema and feminist film since the early seventies.
At the age of 15, after viewing Jean-Luc Godard's Pierrot le Fou (1965), she decided that same night to make movies. However, in an interview in 2011, she said that she now only liked parts of it.
Best-known for Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (1975), made when she was just 25 years old. This film influenced later major filmmakers like Michael Haneke (especially Der siebente Kontinent (1989)), Sofia Coppola (Somewhere (2010)), Gus Van Sant (Last Days (2005)), Todd Haynes (Safe (1995)), Sally Potter (Orlando (1992)) among others.
At 18, she entered the Institut National Supérieur des Arts du Spectacle et des Techniques de Diffusion, a Belgian film school. During her first term and after only 3 months, however, Akerman chose to leave and make Saute ma ville (1968), a 13-minute black-and-white short in 35mm. She partially subsidized her short film by trading diamond shares on the Antwerp stock exchange.
Her 1972 feature Hotel Monterey and shorts La Chambre 1 and La Chambre 2 reveal the influence of structural filmmaking through these films' usage of long takes. These protracted shots serve to oscillate images between abstraction and figuration. Akerman's films from this period also signify the start of her collaboration with cinematographer Babette Mangolte, the director of photography on La chambre (1972), Hôtel Monterey (1972), Hanging Out Yonkers (1973), Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (1975) and News from Home (1977). In 1973, Akerman returned to Belgium and in 1974 received critical recognition for her feature I, you, he, she.
Her work has been celebrated in London in a full retrospective organized by the film collective 'A now amours', while her latest film, No Home Movie (2015), premiered at the Locarno Film Festival in August 2015.
She directed two of the four Belgian films listed within TSPDT's 1000 greatest films - a list used within the Wikipedia Film Project to identify works of importance. The listed films are Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (1975) and From the East (1993).
According to the book "Images in the Dark" by Raymond Murray, Akerman refused to have her work "ghettoized" and denied the New York Gay Film Festival the right to screen Je, tu, il, elle (1974). "I will never permit a film of mine to be shown in a gay film festival".
In 1975, Akerman released her most notable film, Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles. Widely considered one of the great feminist films, the film makes a hypnotic, real-time study of a middle-aged widow's stifling routine of domestic chores and prostitution. Upon the film's release, The New York Times called Jeanne Dielman the "first masterpiece of the feminine in the history of the cinema".
Akerman was born to an observant family of Polish Jews in Brussels, Belgium.
Chantal Akerman scholar Ivone Margulies called Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (1975) a filmic paradigm for uniting feminism and anti-illusionism.
At Anthology Film Archives in New York, Akerman was impressed with the work of Stan Brakhage, Jonas Mekas, Michael Snow, Yvonne Rainer, and Andy Warhol. She states that Snow's La Région Centrale introduced her to the relations among film, time and energy.
She tried a more commercial approach in the comedy Un divan à New York (1996) which starred Academy Award winning actors Juliette Binoche and William Hurt. She later described the experience as rather unpleasant and didn't try again to work in genre or with stars.
She worked together with film icon Catherine Deneuve for the segment "Pour Febe Elisabeth Velasquez, El Salvador" in Contre l'oubli (1991).
No Home Movie (2015) was booed by some press members at the press screening when it premiered at the Locarno International Film Festival in Switzerland, but it was well-received at a public screening. The reviews were largely positive, some of them even rave reviews.
David Edgar noted, "her work doesn't sit squarely within existing categories of LGBT cinema, and perhaps even resists such definitions." There are exceptions, most notably Je, tu, il, elle (1974), in which the female lead character (Akerman herself) visits the apartment of a woman who may be her ex-lover and has passionate sex with her in a lengthy take. It's a truly unique sex scene - although the lingering camera seems voyeuristic, its static nature rules out any pornographic intent, despite the nudity on display.
"Many people never understood her cinema," Mr. Mazzanti said. He likened some critical comments to the way some people look at a drip painting by Jackson Pollock "and say, 'I could do that.' ".
Akerman also worked in video art. Her 2007 video installation, "Women From Antwerp in November," which depicts moody women smoking in that Belgian city, was shown at the Marian Goodman Gallery in New York as well as in London.
She made Saute ma ville (1968) when she was only 18 years old. Despite similarities in content to her best-known work Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (1975), as it's about a girl who enters a kitchen and does ordinary tasks in an increasingly bizarre and off-kilter way, Akerman subsequently described it as "the opposite of "Jeanne Dielman", that was resignation. Here it is rage and death.".
Akerman created a new cinematic language by merging structuralist and experimental film with narrative and dramatic cinema. She expanded cinema's reach not only in form, but dared to wade into taboo subjects.
She also directed La captive (2000), an adaptation of Marcel Proust, whose work, she said, had always been very important to her.
She's regarded as one of the most significant feminist filmmakers, who constantly challenged the representation of women on screen and the cinematic form itself.
Her homeland Belgium didn't inform much of her work, but traveling abroad did. After dropping out of film school she moved to New York City. There she was inspired by the experimental films she saw at Anthology Film Archives (notably the work of Michael Snow), and made some of her earliest films, including Hôtel Monterey (1975) and La chambre (1975).
The Toronto Film Festival described her influence in a statement: "Daring, original, uncompromising and in all ways radical, Akerman revolutionized the history of cinema not only with her masterpiece Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (1975) but also with the sustained urgency of her brilliance". [2015].
Her later works mostly use documentary techniques. From the East (1993) is a haunting snapshot of Russia and East Europe filmed immediately after the collapse of communism. Sud (1999) considers the climate surrounding a racially motivated murder in American's Deep South. In Là-bas (2006) she pays a troubling visit to Israel.
Professor Janet Bergstrom wrote about her: Akerman the filmmaker came of age at the same time as the new age of feminism, and [her 70s films] became key texts in the nascent field of feminist film theory. Feminism posed the apparently simple question of who speaks when a woman in film speaks (as character, as director); Akerman insisted convincingly that her films' modes of address rather than their stories alone are the locus of their feminist perspective. The many arguments about what forms a "new women's cinema" should be resolved arounded a presumed dichotomy between so-called realist (meaning accessible) and avant-garde (meaning elitist) work; Akerman's films rendered such distinctions irrelevant and illustrated the reductiveness of the categories.
The New York Times described Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (1975) as "the first masterpiece of the feminine in the history of the cinema".
She revolutionised the portrayal of women and female desire on screen.
On asking Chantal Akerman how she had edited Hôtel Monterey (1975) her silent color film about a Lower Manhattan hotel: "She said, 'I was breathing, and then at one point I understood it was the time to cut. It was my breathing that decided the length of my shots,' "[New York Times, Oct. 6, 2015].
Her mother Natalia Akerman, a holocaust survivor, had a major influence on her work and is featured in No Home Movie (2015).
Angst and alienation permeate Akerman's films - she made more than 40 - as she sought to break free of linear narratives and direct explication in both her cinematic essays and her documentary work, preferring instead to leave essential things unsaid. The generational trauma of the Holocaust was a continuing theme, though below the surface. In recent decades she explored her own Jewish identity.
Akerman joined the City College of New York as a visiting lecturer in its MFA program in 2011.
President of the 'Orizzonti' jury at the 65th Venice International Film Festival in 2008.

Personal Quotes (1)

[on Delphine Seyrig] The French film establishment never forgave her for her outspokenness. If she had not been so beautiful, so aristocratic, it might not have been so bad. But the incongruity between their fantasy of her and what she was- a total feminist activist to the end of her life- they couldn't tolerate that. She was as much of a force in our lives as on the screen, and that's something very rare.

See also

Other Works | Publicity Listings | Official Sites | Contact Info

Contribute to This Page