Au Revoir...

Chantal Akerman is gone. I spoke a little here about what she meant to me, but it'll never be enough. Speaking about someone with the voice they gave you is both omnipresent tribute and paltry. Here's a piece I wrote a little less than a week ago about her newest film, No Home Movie, which played the New York Film Festival. And below is my little tribute to Almayer's Folly when it was on my best films of the year list a little while ago. I don't usually get upset about the deaths of people I don't know, but this hurt me in a profound way. 

on Almayer's Folly

As she's moved away from her roots as one of the cinema's most important formalist provocateurs, Chantal Akerman has let new methods of communication into her rigorous aesthetic. She's certainly the last person I'd think interested in adapting Joseph Conrad, yet here she is all the same. Before I saw Almayer's Folly, which was my most anticipated release for something like two years (it was completed in 2011), I went to see her do a reading of her private diaries in Chelsea. After standing in front of this small-statured, ornery warrior confessing her emotional traumas and weaknesses to a crowd of strangers (many of whom walked out, their callouss footsteps like a hurricane blowing through the blackbox theatre we were seated in), I visited her latest and saw invigorated, hopeful mise-en-scene, ambititous camera moves I can't imagine the extensive planning for, and the image of Akerman cutting a path through the jungle to make this masterwork was altogether something out of Conrad. She may have let action, music, pans, dollies, incident, resentment, longing and sacrifice into her work over the years but she's still the one-woman Belgian New Wave, and she still has passion and ideas enough for a dozen directors. Beginning with an opening musical number that hides a murder, continuing through the most audacious tracking shot of any film on this list, on through to meticulously chosen shots of the city and the jungle that show in thirty seconds what whole films miss about the way lives are lived, Almayer's Folly isn't typical fare for its director, but it is typically foundation-shaking. 

No comments: