By Bill Grennan
Omaha, NE — One of cinema’s most unique voices is on display in downtown Omaha.
Film Streams continues its Great Directors spotlight series with a collection of works from Belgian film icon Chantal Akerman. Akerman died last October of an apparent suicide and since then, film buffs across the country are rediscovering her lengthy catalogue of work. Perhaps most notable is her film Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles which follows the daily routine of a middle-aged widow. The film runs through Monday, April 25th. Film Streams Found and Director Rachel Jacobson described the impact the film has had on the artform.
“It’s this really jarring, really interesting movie that’s paced and framed and decorated in a way that is pretty mind-blowing,” Jacobson said. “It’s true-to-life and feels like a new art form almost. It’s like she was taking film and saying, ‘Here’s a completely different way to tell a story’. I think it was really important, especially for a woman director, because men have created the traditional form of storytelling in general. (Akerman) took it from her point of view, how she chose to tell a story. It’s really spare and simple but it’s absolutely intense. It’s a movie that really sits with you; I highly recommend it.”
One constant of Akerman’s over the years was her very personal ways to showcase the human condition. On April 29th and May 1st, the theater will screen News from Home, a documentary-like film where Akerman reads over correspondence between her and her mother, chronicling her transition to New York City in 1976. On April 30th and May 2, moviegoers will get a chance to watch Je Tu Il Elle, Akerman’s minimalist feature where she starts as a young woman who leaves self-imposed isolation to embark on a road trip that leads to lonely love affairs with a male truck driver and a former girlfriend.
Jacobson said that one constant of all Akerman’s works is the phenomenon of watching a truly one-of-kind visionary’s work.
“It’s exciting because, even though it’s very slowly paced, it’s incredible to watch because it seems like you’re watching a new form,” she said. “You’re watching this completely original voice that’s not trying to copy any kind of method of rhythm or timing. Also, the story is brutal; it’s really intense. The way that it brings you along, by the end, you are just wiped out; blown away and astonished. It’s a weird mixtures of emotions because you are discovering this new voices, this artist that truly original, but then you are also swept away by the story itself.”
Film Streams’ showcase of the works of Chantal Akerman continues through Friday May 2nd. For more information on the Great Directors program, visit www.FilmStreams.org.