Could a woman director change film history?

It is so easy to forget that there are many gaps between being a prodigy and being known at all well as a genius, a potentialy or actually transformative figure. So though I hope I am not the only who won’t recognize the subject of these quotes, I suspect I am not.

She was 25 when she made her groundbreaking “Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles” (1975). That film, which runs more than three hours, follows a widowed housewife as she prepares food, does chores and receives a gentleman who pays her for sex. The minimalist repetition builds quietly to a traumatic climax.

“ ‘Jeanne Dielman’ is a film that created, overnight, a new way of making films, a new way of telling stories, a new way of telling time,” said Nicola Mazzanti, the director of the Royal Belgian Film Archive. “There are filmmakers who are good, filmmakers who are great, filmmakers who are in film history. And then there are a few filmmakers who change film history.”

Chantel Akerman is The director of “Jeanne Dielman,” which is available on Hulu. See also Amazon.com. She made a large number of exploratory films. Supposing a lot of others do not recognize this seminal (ovular) figure, I would guess it is because she was largely ignored in Hollywood and NYC.

Akerman died in Paris at 65 on Mon, Oct.5. No cause has been reported.

Another article notes:

Ms. Akerman’s last film, “No Home Movie” (a title that can be read two ways), is largely set in her mother’s Brussels apartment and documents their conversations in the months before the older woman’s death.

“No Home Movie,” which is to be screened Wednesday and Thursday (Oct 7 and 8) at the New York Film Festival, ends with Ms. Akerman alone in the empty apartment. It was heartbreaking when I saw it last week and it is devastating now.

3 thoughts on “Could a woman director change film history?

  1. I’ve never watched “Jeanne Dielman”, I’ll look out for it. There are some tidbits on youtube and it looks quite intriguing. I do remember “A Couch in New York”, but I confess I rarely notice who made a film…

    progeny …”prodigy”, perhaps? Autocorrect is a pain.

  2. So glad to see this tribute to Chantal Akerman on Feminist Philosophers. Thank you for posting this, Anne.

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