Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.
France/Belgium/West Germany, 1977. Institut National de l’Audiovisuel, Paradise Films, Unité Trois, Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen. Screenplay by Chantal Akerman. Cinematography by Jim Asbell, Babette Mangolte. Produced by Alain Dahan. Film Editing by Francine Sandberg.
More radical experimentation from Chantal Akerman, and another test of your patience that pays off if you stick it out. She films the island of Manhattan with a static camera that examines streets, subways, shop windows and buildings. Over these images you hear her voice reading out letters from her mother, who writes to her frequently in various tones of joy and sadness, sometimes pleased at her daughter’s success and other times disappointed that she doesn’t keep in correspondence more. It’s very high art, and its thematic separation of figure from landscape is about as subtle as a Looney Tunes anvil on the head, but the glimpses of New York City in the seventies is unparalleled for anyone with a love of the Big Apple. If you watch it long enough you’ll eventually find the imagery and sounds soothing, and the opportunity to engage in voyeuristic examinations of the people who often inhabit the screen is strangely fascinating.