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+.