1972. Belgium/USA. Directed by Chantal Akerman. 63 min.
1972. Belgium/USA. Directed by Chantal Akerman. 11 min.
Hailed by J. Hoberman as "arguably the most important European director of her generation," Akerman spent 18 months in New York in the early 1970s working odd jobs and discovering the films of Michael Snow, Yvonne Rainer, Ernie Gehr, and Jonas Mekas at Anthology Film Archives. If Jean-Luc Godard's Pierrot le fou inspired Akerman to become a filmmaker at the age of 15, these artists excited her to the possibilities of experimenting with stillness and movement, memory, silence, and abstraction. In her early short La Chambre, Akerman and cinematographer Babette Mangolte survey a cramped tenement apartment through several slow, repeated pans, making out of domestic objects—a table, a chair, a bowl of fruit—a still life of subtle variation and unexpected meaning. In her hauntingly beautiful Hotel Monterey, which recalls the paintings of Vermeer, Hopper, and Hammershøi, Akerman charts a derelict New York hotel over the course of a single night. J. Hoberman writes, “This formalist investigation of a seedy SRO hotel on the Upper West Side fragments the building into a succession of leisurely contemplated vistas—the lobby, the rickety elevator, the cramped rooms, the inexplicable fixtures. Initially impressionistic, Hotel Monterey is actually quite rigorous in its painterly—not to mention eroticized—use of narrow corridors and light-smeared reflections (Mangolte again).” Both films silent; preserved by the Royal Film Archive of Belgium.