Chantal Akerman, the brilliant Belgian director best known for the feminist film classic Jeanne Dielman, 23, Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles, has died suddenly at age 65. She made that masterpiece when she was only 25, and that wasn’t even her first great work. She’d already made a mark in nonfiction cinema, for example, with 1972’s Hotel Monterey, and after Jeanne Dielman she made News From Home, which filmmaker and critic Robert Greene selected as the first entry into his series for us on the new canon of nonfiction cinema. In that piece, he writes:
News From Home is hardly ever called a documentary, but it remains one of the most astounding works of nonfiction ever made…a fully realized masterpiece, denying all categorization while evoking the best of both fiction and documentary. It is a landmark work of what has come to be called the “hybrid” film, a cinematic chimera that deserves to be considered part of the canon.
She went on to make more hybrids and also films that were more traditionally defined as documentary, including her personal new feature No Home Movie, which is about her Auschwitz-surviving mother, who died last year. The doc debuted in August at the Locarno Film Festival before playing Toronto and now the New York Film Festival (the final screening is tomorrow evening and sold out). Watch a clip here:
Much of her other nonfiction work is available on DVD, either from The Criterion Collection — Hotel Monterey and News From Home are both part of the Eclipse box set “Chantal Akerman in the Seventies” — or Icarus Films, which has the Pina Bausch doc One Day Pina Asked…, From the East and From the Other Side and South, both in a set together, plus the self-portrait Chantal Akerman by Chantal Akerman and Gustavo Beck and Leonardo Luiz Ferreira’s film of her, Chantal Akerman, From Here.
Here’s how to (legally) watch some of her nonfiction and hybrid films immediately today:
La Chambre: Hulu
Hotel Monterey: Hulu
News From Home: Hulu
One Day Pina Asked… Amazon Instant Video
From the Other Side: Amazon Instant Video, iTunes