In this male-dominated business women filmmakers have always been too small a minority. There is progress being made but women’s voices deserve better recognition.
Chantal Akerman was a founder of the art-of-turning-traditional-narrative-on-its-head school of filmmaking. This is evident in one of her finest works, 1975’s “Jeanne Dielman, 23 Qai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles.” This notable film follows a single mother’s day-to-day regime playing out over the course of three full days, from mundane everyday tasks (cooking and cleaning, etc.), to another, more unusual, chore, prostituting herself to a single client to help assure for hers and her son’s livelihood. The mother’s life is thrown off on day two after she drops a spoon and burns potatoes, leading to an unexpectedly powerful denouement.
This film is important to cinema in several ways. It brought Akerman universal respect amongst arthouse film critics worldwide, it allowed her the freedom to make films on her terms, and it was one of the only films at the time to have an entirely female crew.
Akerman would make many great films throughout her career until her death in 2015. Some of her best include, “The Meetings Of Anna” (1978) a powerful look at determination and isolation in a male business, “Night and Day” (1991) a darkly-humorous take on modern relationships, and “La Captive” (2000) a brave and rather brilliant modern day retooling of Marcel Proust’s classic tale.
I have always been struck by Akerman’s sly sense of humor, frankness, and honesty towards the portrayal of women in cinema. There never is a false moment or an unearned emotion in her characters.
Akerman once said she believes she “had a better knowledge of womanly anxieties than most filmmakers. My grandparents and mother were sent to Auschwitz, with only mother returning.” To that end, a mother’s anxiety is a common theme in all of her work.
Seek out the films by this wonderful filmmaker.
My favorite Chantal Akerman film is: “Night and Day” (1991)