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5 things you might not know about Chantal Akerman

The director of Almayer's Folly is the subject of a retrospective at the 2012 French Film Festival

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5 things you might not know about Chantal Akerman

1 In 1968, as an 18-year-old film school dropout, she funded her first short film by selling shares on the Antwerp diamond exchange.

2 She then relocated to New York City to immerse herself in the avant-garde scene, gaining particular inspiration from the structuralist film movement exemplified by the work of Stan Brakhage, Michael Snow and Andy Warhol. But long slow takes aren’t all she’s up for: her body of work also takes in romantic comedy, documentaries, literary adaptations and a musical.

3 Her most famed feature film was listed as of the 100 greatest films of the 20th century. Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles, made in 1975, is an account of the domestic life of a housewife with a prostitution sideline starring Delphine Seyrig. It was hailed as the ‘first masterpiece of the feminine in the history of the cinema’ by The New York Times.

4 But wait! She isn’t easily categorisable. Akerman refutes the label ‘feminist filmmaker’, saying, ‘It so happens I’m a woman and aware of certain problems, but that isn’t my main concern in making movies … I’m not making women’s films. I’m making Chantal Akerman’s films.’ She once refused to have her films shown in a gay and lesbian film festival, regarding such separatism as ghettoising and negative.

5 She’s an irreverent iconoclast to whom the backslapping, money-grubbing and tactful reputation-guarding of the mainstream film industry mean little – so for aficionados and new converts alike, the opportunity to see her present her own work is one not to be missed.

A retrospective of Chantal Akerman’s films will screen as part of the French Film Festival, various venues, Fri 16 Nov–Sun 2 Dec. See will appear in person for a Q&A after the screening of Almayer’s Folly, Fri 16 Nov, Filmhouse, Edinburgh; Sun 18 Nov, GFT, Glasgow.

Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles

  • 1975
  • Belgium/France
  • 201 min
  • Directed by: Chantal Akerman
  • Cast: Delphine Seyrig, Jan Decorte, Henri Storck

A Belgian housewife and mother prostitutes herself at home. When an unexpected event throws her meticulous order out of sync, her world comes crashing down.

Almayer's Folly

  • 2011
  • Belgium/France
  • 127 min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Chantal Akerman
  • Cast: Stanislas Merhar, Marc Barbé, Aurora Marion

Akerman returns to filmmaking after a seven year gap with this adaptation of Joseph Conrad's first novel.

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