Reviews of Les rendez-vous d’Anna
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Les Rendez-vous d’Anna (1978): The vacuous spaces that stretches its parametrized world.
In the spatial unity of Les Rendez-vous d’Anna (1978), I was gasping and searching for my own utility as a film viewer. This is a challenging film wherein the depths of its ideologies are kept in between glances, in between the moral fiber of the themes, inside the stillness of the frames. A film of enchanting quality with a striking minimalism. Its approach is not as extreme as Chantal Akerman’s minimalist gem Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (1975). This is because in Les Rendez-vous d’Anna has an exacting cross-hairs of exploring the relationship between space and the main character’s resonating emotional vacuity. Crossing within the threshold of perceptual experience, I encounter numerous instances in the film wherein the Anna is placed with comparison to empty spaces. This is a bit more functional and more purposeful than what she did in Jeanne Dielman. This is a notable improvement from the solidified position of Jeanne in her 1975 film. The spaces to which Anna move as if in solitary trance are narrative elements themselves, as if these spaces are characters in the story. It is as if these vacuous spaces communicate with the viewers, narrating meditatively the alienation of Anna in her journey home.
Les Rendez-vous d’Anna (1978): The assimilation of a minimalist style in the mise-en-scene.
I find it an experiential movie, a movie that immerses the viewers into the quietness of its form. Unlike other films which tends to be manipulative, and to some degree, lording their forms and styles to the viewers as if they were a spectacle, this kind of films have an absorbing humility and incredible reticence to exaggerate. Is it closer to realism? Or is it realism itself? Or another form of realism? The minimalist stylistic function of the form to relate character’s thoughts to its surroundings have been used with great mastery of today’s filmmakers notably Lav Diaz’s epic-long films like Death in the Land of Encantos (2007) and Heremias I (2006) and Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s Uzak (2002). Some filmmakers like Lisandro Alonso approaches this minimalism with striking simplicity that his films takes more abstract, self-reflexive and radical forms like his La Libertad (2001). These films have intense political issues raging from labor issues, poverty to territorial boundaries and even aesthetics and polemics of cinema itself. These are intensely dredged into structure of the mise-en-scene and the placing and pacing of the shots. They encapsulate the characters or other narrative elements into a richly layered film. In Les Rendez-vous d’Anna, the feminist ideology, the evocation of Anna’s struggle with alienation as a woman being trapped in her strong feminist figure, hinges upon a sort of personal geopolitics wherein her own self is projected to her personal space. It is as if her encounters with these passing figures provide issues about the personal and public space of women, how a woman must manifest herself in a film. Minimalism has somewhat soften the intrusion of the camera to its subject matter, like what Akerman did in Jeanne Dielman. Akerman achieves mastery in frame composition by positioning the camera with a certain distance from its subjects
- a certain characteristic quality for every Akerman film. It brings me to a conclusion that thematic elements can be effectively depicted by positioning the camera rightfully from the subject.
The method of draws many implications about the politics of a contemplative image. Questions like is Les Rendez-vous d’Anna an experiential film, only appealing to the senses arises. Or does is have its own polemics not only limited to the experiential? Unlike Lisandro Alonso’s film La Libertad (2001) which commences from the banality of daily life, Les Rendez-vous d’Anna comes from a feminist school of thought. Its politics about liberation and alienation of women is not new. Akerman approach this theme with restraint and arrive at startling, enigmatic results which, a friend observes, closer to the truth.
Only a few filmmakers have master the craft of contemplative filmmaking. It is, of course, too limited to think that contemplative cinema exist because of its aesthetics: the long takes, the immovable camera, the emphasis on singularity, alienating shots and still objects, blank spaces and linear editing. Great contemplative films have its own polemics, and yes, they can move the camera and inject short shots in compliment to the long shots. Lav Diaz and Chantal Akerman follows this model. Not far behind are Tsai Ming-Liang and Lisandron Alonso.
- Currently 5.0/5 Stars.
Anyone familiar with Chantal Akerman should know that she isn’t a fan of saying “cut”. There isn’t much editing in her films and she’s not concerned with what the average movie go-er wants to see. Her name first popped up on my radar while reading up on Jim Jarmusch back in college. I guess the comparison of Jarmusch’s early work to Akerman’s films kinda makes scene (both directors’ early work usually took place in small spaces, with very little cutting and were shot in black & white). Her name popped up again on the criterion commentary track for Richard Linklater’s ’It’s Impossible To Learn How To Plow…‘, where he mentions her a few times as an influence on his first film which, in my opinion, is straight out of the “school of chantal akerman”: a minimal dialogue road movie/documentary where Linklater films himself on a cross country trek with a 16mm camera (a plot very similar to Akerman’s ‘Rendezvous D’Anna’). Some people consider Akerman’s work great minimalist and/or femenist cinema (jeanne dielman, a couch in new york, and je tu il elle), while to others, her films are a sleep aid (which is an understanable statement). Akerman’s work may not be that “watchable”, but that still hasn’t stopped prominent filmmakers like Richard Linklater, Jim Jarmusch, Michael Haneke, Sofia Coppola, Todd Haynes, Claire Denis, Aki Kaurismaki and Marina De Van from either mentioning her in interviews or some kind of commentary track on a DVD, or borrowing shots from her films.
“Boring Masterpiece” (a term i picked up from the on-going series of film screenings at Anthology Film Archives) best describes ‘Rendezvous D’Anna’ (which has become one of my new favorites). In this semi-road movie/character study, which i cant help but think is somewhat autobiographical, the beautiful Aurore Clement plays a movie director traveling around the European festival circuit with her latest film. At each stop she makes on her trip Anna encounters a different lover, family member or stranger. Much like the main character in Bette Gordon’s ‘Variety’ (a woman working at a porn theater who becomes fascinated with pornography and starts to stalk a man) or Marina De Van’s ‘In My Skin’ (a cronenberg-esque body horror film with a woman in the lead role that would have typically been for a man), the lead role of a director isn’t often associated with a woman. There’s even a moment at the beginning where a hotel clerk (positioned off camera) asks Anna a somewhat patronizing question:
“you’re the directress?…that must be fascinating work.”
Lets be honest, had Anna been a man, that statement would have never been made. Additionally, in your typical “road movie” (which almost ALWAYS shows a male lead), we see our main character having various sexual encounters with all the different women they meet on their journey and we look at that as something “cool”…and it is (two lane blacktop, roadside prophets, wild at heart, easy rider, etc). The same thing happens in ‘Rendezvous D’Anna’ but the roles are reversed. Its Anna who appears to be the dominate one in these relationships. She’s the one who makes the “booty calls”, and its the men who come back to her room yet we don’t place that “double standard” or look down on her as being a promiscuous woman.
As you watch this film, you may start asking yourself; “whats the point of all this? when will something happen?” But by the end it should all be pretty obvious that Anna is detached from the world. She’s not necessarily depressed, but she’s pretty lonely and shows little to no emotion (i think Akerman does a much better job with this than she does with Jeanne Dielman…). Through most of the film she has this blank look on her face. Furthermore, the fact that she travels alone promoting her film is pretty odd. She doesn’t travel with an agent, assistant or other cast members. She even wears the same clothes through he majority of the film. My favorite scene that really shows her loneliness and detachment is towards the end when Anna is riding in a taxi and she starts to tear up. As she’s looking out the window, everything looks pointless and dreary (the people walking on the street, the buildings, all the signs and blinking lights, etc) Its such a helpless, heartbreaking and vulnerable moment.
This film isn’t for everyone, especially with short attention spans, but if you’re a fan of early Wim Wenders, late Bresson, Claire Denis, Peter Handke (specifically ‘The Left Handed Woman’…another “boring masterpiece”) or any of the other directors mentioned earlier, you’ll love this. If you don’t want to purchase the criterion eclipse set that this movie comes in, you can check it out on hulu+.
- Currently 5.0/5 Stars.