Anna, a detached and diffident director, arrives in Germany to show her latest film; she checks into a hotel, invites a stranger to her bed, and abruptly tells him to leave. He asks her to ...
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Chantal Akerman, the Belgian filmmaker, lives in New York. Filmed images of the City are accompanied by the texts of Chantal Akerman's loving but manipulative mother back home in Brussels. ... See full summary »
Hotel Monterey is a cheap hotel in New York reserved for the outcasts of American society. Chantal Akerman invites viewers to visit this unusual place as wall as the people who live there, from the reception up to the last story.
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 »
A lonely widowed housewife does her daily chores, takes care of her apartment where she lives with her teenage son, and turns the occasional trick to make ends meet. However, something happens that changes her safe routine.
Jack and Julie live in a bare flat in Paris. At night, Jack drives a taxi while Julie wanders around the city, and in the day they make love. One day Julie meets Joseph, the daytime driver ... See full summary »
Anna, a detached and diffident director, arrives in Germany to show her latest film; she checks into a hotel, invites a stranger to her bed, and abruptly tells him to leave. He asks her to a birthday lunch with his mother and daughter; she goes. Afterward, in Cologne, she meets an old friend, a Polish Jew and war refugee. In Brussels, she spends the night at a hotel with her mother, whom she rarely sees. On the train, a stranger tells his story. Last, it's home to Paris, where her lover Daniel picks her up and they go to a hotel. Throughout, people make personal revelations to her, and Anna listens with little affect. Although it was 30 years ago, the war seems ever present. Written by
I try to not watch the news if I can help it; it plays out like a bad movie, and what bad movies do is they narrow the view. I want to be able to see how things move and how they come to be a certain way in their tide, not their surf. When I do watch the news, like the other week with what happened at Brussels, I'm dismayed at what a frightful place the world can be when gripped by senseless violence and anxious views.
But then unexpectedly the same night I discover a film like this that restores everything back to its original dimensions, the world becomes vast and empty again. Watching it I am reminded that sweet, alert souls are out there who quietly live and create, make sense they give back to us that negates ignorance and need, affirms the simplicity of just being.
It's not in any thing it says one way or another, it has no words of wisdom. It's in how we pass through things, how we observe the passing. It's a process of emptying out so that what remains, hopefully, is the larger, sentient view that regards itself in all these things.
A woman is taking the night train home, it's as simple as this, one of those films where 'nothing happens'. She's a director who was in Berlin to show her movie, a surrogate for Akerman herself no doubt. The whole has the intimate tone of moments that were lived through and committed to memory.
But the story, what little of it we have, is only here as a way of gathering observations. It's so we can make a few stops on the way home. A man in Berlin whose wife left him and is unsure about what's next, eager to cling to her. Elsewhere she meets an acquaintance from back home who urges her to get married, that she's not getting any younger. The train pulls up at Brussels, she's reunited with her mother for one night and then she's off again.
Eventually there's a lover waiting to pick her up in Paris but even the night they share in a nondescript room offers no haven; he has to be up in a few hours to go to work, she will leave again, transient arrangements for the night. In a marvelous instance she lays naked on top of him but he begins to hurt and she has to go out in a taxi in search of a drugstore.
So 'nothing happens'; I say everything does. You could shape each encounter into its own film with its own drama, here it is all distilled to a few exchanges. The woman listens without judgment or advice, they say what's on their mind, then they part again, anxieties dispersing. She's not unaffected herself, we note, but she moves without need.
It's all simple here, simple in the Japanese Buddhist sense that recognizes the transience of things without suffering, the suffering of things without attachment, emptiness where not a single thing is redundant or missing. A different thing from just modern lack. Buddhism isn't about renouncing reality as often misconstrued, it's about renouncing ego and craving so that you are free to return; not about resting above suffering, but resting in the middle of it.
It's all here. No elephant art for this woman, no grandiose meaning, and yet it's all here in the sketches of the transient world, the meaning all in how we see with an eye that is coming back to the beginning.
Something to meditate upon.
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