Under Chantal Akerman’s watchful eye, a cheap New York hotel glows with mystery and unexpected beauty, its corridors, elevators, rooms, windows, and occasional tenants framed as though part of an Edward Hopper tableau.
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At first the gaze strikes out in search of codes, then seeks to puncture the image: lacking posture, it cannot settle; lacking grammar, cannot speak. Immutable even as it tracks down corridors, hemming the vanishing point; windows, flat shapes, open on and into a city. All is form and temperature, not in motion but passing. Repetition expresses consciousness: the gaze returns us to ourselves, but with the world.
One of the great portraits of New York City... I love how Chantal Akerman romanticizes the grimier and more cozy part of the city versus the upper class Manhattan we're used to seeing in this light- just great!
Corridors are one of the most perfect cinematic images, filled with a beguiling sense of mystery, so I am happy to watch a film almost devoted to them. A film for showing how perception can change a small space into an evocative canvas. Oddly reminds me of pop art of the era, isolating/multiplying recognised images we take for granted and questioning why we have extrapolated this reality.
The corridor strolls prove really powerful, but within the closed systems, inactive images entropically form intolerable inertia. I’ve esteemed Brakhage’s altruisms of leaving silent films to invoke imagery into poetry, but this here needs a soundtrack in place of the missing dolly.
Akerman does film-as-performance-art. Unflinchingly, daringly raw and (inter)personal exercises in structure and form. And we are the implicated voyeurs, bringing life to tropes via quantum observation. How undermined the legacy of cinema on human communication, on empathy, on intellect & imagination would be without these assertive counterweights to the oppressive hegemony of narrative film! Thank you, Akerman. 3.75