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La chambre (1972)

 -  Short  -  11 July 1989 (USA)
5.4
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In a 360° circular panoramic shot the camera slowly pans an entire apartment (or house). When it first passes the bedroom there is nobody there but each time it shows the room again Chantal... See full summary »

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Title: La chambre (1972)

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Elle-même - Sur son lit
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In a 360° circular panoramic shot the camera slowly pans an entire apartment (or house). When it first passes the bedroom there is nobody there but each time it shows the room again Chantal Akerman is sitting on the bed, motionless first, then busy doing something (peeling an orange, eating an orange, etc.). When she is last seen she yawns and lies down on her bed. The camera continues panning but after 10 minutes and 21 seconds the film comes to an end and she can't be seen asleep. Written by Guy Bellinger

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11 July 1989 (USA)  »

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(La chambre 1)| (La chambre 2)

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'La chambre' exists in two versions. 'La chambre 1' is silent whereas 'La chambre 2' has a soundtrack. See more »

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Pretentious minimalism
23 December 2010 | by (New York, New York) – See all my reviews

I have enjoyed and benefited from viewing several of Akerman's features over the years, back when they played frequently at NYC art houses: JEANNE DIELMAN, TOUTE UNE NUIT especially. But this early short film betrays her feet of clay.

The 360-degree counter-clockwise panning around the room shot seems like a riff out of Michael Snow's experimental bag of tricks, but is not as interesting as his breakthrough films, notably WAVELENGTH.

Instead we have the gimmick performed a half dozen times, then suddenly changing to a back & forth pan right to left, left to right, over & over until arbitrarily stopping.

Like Warhol's more famous and interminable earlier experiments in this form, the duration becomes the issue in watching this. The purpose of Chantal's approach is to force one to examine details, in this case the unchanging topography of the chamber, and of course the expected (or shaggy-dog not to expect) movements of Chantal herself as the human element submerged in the room. It's just like watching the sleeper in Warhol's SLEEP occasionally budge, with minimal pleasure or anything else to be derived from the effort.

My interest in cinema over the years has focused more on maximalism -I would rather see Abel Gance, Sacha Guitry or Ken Russell toy with the medium than observe the minimalists and structuralists like Chantal and more recently the idiotic dogme crew spinning their wheels. As a parting shot, my all-time favorite, using elements really from both camps is Bert Haanstra, whose feature DR. PULDER SOWS POPPIES reminds us that subtlety is not dead, even in a modern era where gimmicks have trumped conventional dramatic narrative.


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