The HR scene, when doors get closed on her face, was too painful to watch. Well they're there to protect the company, that's their job. But I really wanted to try and demonstrate that for an audience, and try and get them to emotionally understand how hurtful some of those tiny actions are. I started directing weeks after seeing this movie, and I dedicated my second movie (which has 8 shots and lasts almost an hour and a half) to her. Then the crazy thing is, after the Weinstein story broke, we all realized that there's a big ecosystem of enablers. Instead of looking at it top down, I was looking at it bottom up. The way the men were being promoted and they weren't. I wanted to focus on things that were relatable. For those of us who needed her, Akerman kept the world spinning on its axis, even though she hadn’t had what you’d call a "hit" since the 1970s. That kind of toxicity, it trickles down from the top. I interviewed about 100 people. I started interviewing everybody, but I've found the focus to be more interesting at the assistant level and the entry-level jobs. We brought in people who worked as assistants in various companies and Julia spoke to them. I was in film school and just wanted to direct, but all I had proved able to do was drink coffee and watch movies, and none of my instructors seemed in a hurry to let me make features on their time. I decided to talk to friends about what we can do. There is no mistaking that voice—he really sounded like Harvey Weinstein. Chantal Akerman was forcing men to look at a woman who could have been any of their wives or mothers, for over three hours. To be honest, it wasn't in the script. "No good movie is too long," Roger Ebert once wrote, "and no bad movie is short enough." I also love how you captured just tiny details about male behavior and entitlement, which is what’s really damaging on a day-to-day basis. The film treats female bodies like vessels that cannot hold all of the radiant female mind and its innumerable intricacies. I think all this talk, this gendered kind of system we've created, is really prohibiting women from [breaking in]. You portray that system of silence so sharply in this movie. The next two were autobiographical inverses. Perfectly calibrated and increasingly mournful, “The Assistant” is perhaps the first expressly #MeToo narrative feature that elucidates why the movement's arrival was way overdue, as well as one of the most important world premieres to grace this year’s Telluride Film Festival. Did you talk to any assistants who worked for some recognizable names in the industry? Having no allies—not co-workers, not HR, and definitely not her boss—and with a dream of becoming a producer one day, she dawdles in uncertainty. She was just herself, and being Chantal Akerman meant asking the world to reckon with its false identities and overcome a relentlessly awful history. That was the first movie I watched maybe in my late teens or early twenties where I thought, "Wow, this is what a movie can be." That’s what drew me to her memoir reading that night in 2013. When the show ended I went up to her and told her how much she meant to me, how her films had made me a director. We rented an office building basically. Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce,1080 Bruxelles seems more akin to Roman Polansky’s Repulsion or Todd Haynes’ Safe, where we watch a descent into isolation and madness than a sympathetic depiction of the plight of the housewife. I am wondering what you want people to take away and do after they watch this movie? There had been experimental filmmakers before, and many of them had asked you to stare unblinking at ordinary things until you understood something new about what film could do to the human mind, but this was different. That's it. What do we value from the experience of sitting in the dark and communing with 35mm film running through a projector? But we just found a really great actor. I was shocked by that movie. I feel like the interesting thing is, when you talk about the film industry, people assume it's so glamorous. A lot of people are still working [with their bosses] right now. She was Akerman’s first role model and her window into the beauty and warmth of womanhood. It was more about the ordinary than the extraordinary. There are so many moments like that in the movie. Roger Ebert put it perfectly when he wrote about her relationship to the French New Wave in 2012: ... Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (Chantal Akerman) But I [imagined] he also sounds like a lot of bosses, that guy. But I still don't think that anything has changed. Scout Tafoya is a critic and filmmaker who writes for and edits the arts blog Apocalypse Now and directs both feature length and short films. And she did all this before her twenty-fifth birthday. A member of the New York Film Critics Circle (NYFCC), she regularly contributes to RogerEbert.com, Variety and Time Out New York, with bylines in Filmmaker Magazine, Film Journal International, Vulture, The Playlist and The Wrap, among other outlets. We needed to sense his power over everyone. Surely Chantal Akerman had earned her audience. For instance, when she cuts her finger, you do feel something bigger might happen. Wang found inspiration for his own film in Ozu’s oeuvre and in Akerman’s 1975 drama Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du commerce, 1080 Bruxelles. A woman, in her 60s, trying to learn how to date online, and having her heart broken when the object of her affection refuses to be open with her, to write back. most overrated: Jeanne Dielman is at #98 on the TSPDT list and I can’t get behind it after one viewing. We did a lot of just roleplay and playing around to figure out who she is and what she wants and her aspirations. It’s tragic in a way that Akerman’s art turned so many people away from her, but then…the best and most honest art will always confuse and upset those who aren’t ready for it. I mean that voice is terrifying because it felt unmistakable to me. There are also all these fake movie posters around. I was shocked by that movie. She moved to New York in the early 1970s and produced "Hotel Monterey," a silent rumination on the corridors of the rundown building and the people who passed through it. But it would be a shame to leave this notoriously short film festival without falling in love with at least one small and true discovery. I miss her so much. She understood the character, and who she thought the character was. As so frequently happens with artists who are ahead of the game, the world didn’t really know what to do with her. The first is "Je, Tu, Il, Elle," on which more in a moment. That was the first movie I watched maybe in my late teens or early twenties where I thought, "Wow, this is what a movie can be." It’s fitting, if sad, that her final film would be about her final months with her ailing mother. You’re scoreless the rest of the time. The agony of being in thrall to a male society that had only so many spaces allotted for you to discover yourself. I hated him when he said, "Oh, we need more women producers. Yes and no. You feel as if you understand each other. “The results are full of experimental films,” Nicole Brenez pointed out in Facebook, and went on to cite as examples La jet é e, Histoire(s) du cin é ma, Jeanne Dielman, The Man with a Movie Camera, Sátántangó, “and of course the best sequence of 2001 and Vertigo‘s and Persona‘s special effects sequences.” The film is a series of mostly static takes that force you to confront not just the content of the image, but the context, the very idea of a moving image itself. “The Female Gaze, written by the ebullient film journalist Alicia Malone, is an unabashed love letter to our cinema sisters. It gives a window into Akerman’s lifelong inherited anxiety, and the ways in which her work was a tribute to the woman who so cared for her, who sent her money to help support her young daughter, making art she probably didn’t understand. Opportunities, chances to prove her worth in front of appreciative crowds of intellectuals, come to look like a never-ending walk towards a firing squad. Stacker presents the 100 greatest foreign-language films of all time, as of Oct. 30, 2018. The first is "Je, Tu, Il, Elle," on which more in a moment. She was hurt. To reckon with female identity and existence, that it is intrinsically, starkly different from the male, and that so much of modern female life is a miasmic routine. I think she goes in thinking he's on her side and quickly, she figures out that he's not, which is terrifying. I sat there and listened to every word while people all around me walked away. Below is an interview with Green, which has been lightly edited for flow and clarity. With Delphine Seyrig, Jan Decorte, Henri Storck, Jacques Doniol-Valcroze. After "Jeanne Dielman", she would make three more masterpieces before the decade was over. It is a fine balance to get that. I kept thinking about Chantal Akerman’s “Jeanne Dielman, 23, Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles” a lot. A lot of things in there are part things I've experienced, the little tiny things. When this project started taking shape, I did watch it again, obviously. But Matthew [Macfadyen] was the sweetest. I think #MeToo would have arrived much sooner if people looked at things from bottom up. I kind of was trying to find a way to analyze this whole situation as it was unfolding in the press. I was terrified listening to it. The Female Gaze: Essential Movies Made by Women: Women in Film & Cinema, Women Filmmakers, Feminism and Film: Amazon.ca: Malone, Alicia: Books Their job is to protect, not the employees, but the company from the employees. I just wanted pieces of him so we could see that everyone was tense because of the power. After "Jeanne Dielman", she would make three more masterpieces before the decade was over. This was her gift. I love your visual approach to telling this story. I spoke to other people from studios, and then I kind of moved into different [places]. I was hearing similar stories from everybody. Jeanne Dielman, 23, Quai du Commerce 1080 Bruxelles 1975 ★★★½ Watched 29 Sep, 2020. She just stared at me, like she was frustrated that her work had meant so much to me but couldn’t bring her that same joy. Akerman could find the raw essence of the female experience, but in "Les rendez-vous d'Anna," she showed that in reality, she still had to deal with the unceasing judgment of those who thought they could decide whether or not she was an artist. He was like, "I know these guys. I expanded it to my friends who were architects, my friends in tech, finance, and I was finding the same stories there, too. It was a process in post where we brought in the actor and tried a bunch of things and he's great, Jay O. Sanders. I feel uncomfortable mentioning their names. I arrived back in New York and shifted focus to just interviewing friends. She returned to Europe after the completion of a few short films ("Le 15/8" and "Hanging Out Yonkers") armed with a revolutionary idea named Jeanne Dielman. And as soon as you give him a fake name, like if you call him Barry or Jones, it would have pulled people out. She's one of them. I guess that's always been in the back of my mind. We only hear music—this really heartbreaking tune—in the beginning when we see the New York City cityscape go by, and in the end. It is sort of all of us in some way. I've experienced all sorts of different things. At least twenty people walked out of her talk, each footfall louder than the last. Finally she looked to the last of the rude escapees, some 30 minutes into her talk, and said “Don’t make noise.”. Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (Akerman, Belgium) Chantal Akerman created the ultimate feminist film with this intimate epic, a formally exact and deliberately repetitive masterwork, about three days in the life of a single Belgian mother and part-time prostitute. I wanted to be near her, to thank her in some way for having given me the tools to discover myself and become an artist. And, more to the point, who is behind the camera? It terrified me, by the way. But for someone who changed the DNA of art films forever, she isn’t taught in film or feminist theory classes (or anyway, I took both in two different colleges and didn’t hear her name once). Her loss is a hole in my heart. I wanted them to empathize with her discomfort. And I loved that he was unnamed. As soon as we met her, she understood the script, which was great. I have a lot of friends in the film industry. I heard so many crazy stories from people and I didn't really want to go there. You could hear it in the way she dragged out the last vowels. At the Locarno film festival, her latest film "No Home Movie," was booed. She never made a bad movie. I just put him so that we could sense his power and control. And I don’t believe there was a more honest or daring filmmaker of the last 50 years. I mean, I started working with people who worked with The Weinstein Company and Miramax, but I also spread out to other companies. Akerman’s velvety dolly shots place somnambulant Clement in an earth-toned dystopia she has no control over. I think in order to analyze why there aren’t more women in positions of power, you've got to look at why we're not getting our foot in the door in the first place. With the future of her newly starting career at risk, what can she do, if not move on like everything is normal and write humiliating apology emails? I've been in the industry for a while and it's the little things that really affect your self-confidence. She was creating a space for femininity, something still tenuous in art house cinema, to express itself—or at the very least realize that the space it in which it had been confined was not an inescapable one. But when that person is Keith Uhlich of Time Out and you imagine him looking like this and you realize he’s referring to … It does affect your ability to do your job well. You know what it takes.” He sounded belittling. I felt like if I had filled it with music, it would have been easy for the audience. ... "Roger Ebert … We got rid of Harvey Weinstein, but everything's not fixed. I notice every time I told my friends, "Oh, he did this." I suddenly got on the phone and started texting a bunch of people. Oh, how my inner cinephile regrets bringing up the 201-minute length of Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles so early in the discussion, it supports that dictum so well! This year, that unforeseen breakthrough is Kitty Green’s “The Assistant.” Following a single day in the life of a high-powered film executive’s female, entry-level assistant (Julia Garner), Green’s thriller-esque drama operates in the pre-#MeToo world, as its unnamed, first-in, last-out Northwestern graduate goes through numerous mundane tasks in a soulless office, while slowly noticing her boss’s toxic, predatory behavior. We just found a building in New York City and shot in it. She became a familiar figure at festivals and was paid many tributes over the years. It was one of the great formalist gambits of the 1970s, and it felt like the first time a woman was filming what it felt like to be a woman. Oh wow, that's great. "News From Home" only provides a glimpse into what Akerman had left behind and what she saw as she read these heartbreaking missives from her past life, but didn’t give much indication what Akerman herself was going through. I've never met Harvey Weinstein. Akerman changed the way an audience relates to moving pictures by asking every member to consider what they would expect from a film. It was, she picks up the call and it wasn't scripted what he would say. "Je, Tu, Il, Elle" showed me that a camera and a body could produce truths that eluded artists with ten times Akerman's resources. Garner is simply astonishing in steering her character’s fragility—she manages to maintain a stone cold professional face, while tears linger on her eyelashes with every subtle male dismissal and condescension. It was the first film she made after "Jeanne Dielman" and a refinement of that film’s ideas. Really, no matter where they worked, this kind of gendered division of labor with the tasks that they got versus the tasks that the men got, [happened]. Chantal Akerman was born in Brussels to a mother who had survived Auschwitz (this great woman was the subject of many of her best work, including "No Home Movie"). She gave me the gift of cinema, led me to my voice. When you want nothing more than to be a better version of yourself, and someone suddenly hands you the ability to do that, you feel an exuberant debt of gratitude, one you can’t wait to repay. While Garner goes through her character’s stressful duties with the precision of Jeanne Dielman (Green’s sympathetic yet unflinchingly objective camera work recalls Chantal Akerman’s movie, too), her deep sense of sadness slowly rises to the surface. The focus on gesture and rhythm and just this idea of labor and showing kind of the mundane—the cinema verite-style of approach I always responded to. I wanted to reflect that a little bit, but still have a sense of how powerful these people are. 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