One of the most significant independent filmmakers of her era, Chantal Akerman possessed a pronounced visual and narrative style, influenced by structuralism and minimalism, which offers astute insights into women's role in modern culture. Akerman's interest in film was sparked at the age of 15 by a viewing of Jean-Luc Godard's "Pierrot le Fou" (1965), prompting her to enroll in the Belgian film school, INSAS. After about two years' study she quit school, eager to begin making films rather than sitting in a classroom. Akerman saved money from clerical and waitressing jobs to make several short films which received minimal recognition. It was not until she moved to New York in 1971 that Akerman began to develop her distinctive visual style and to deal with those themes which dominated her work. In America she became acquainted with the films of the avant-garde, specifically those of Michael Snow and Stan Brakhage. Her first two features, "Hotel Monterey" (1972) and "Je Tu Il Elle" (1974), with their studiously static camerawork and minimal dialogue, were early indications of the visual style which came to full flowering in "Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles" (1975). The reception of this 200-minute, minimally plotted film was mixed. It was criticized by many as a boring and meaningless minimalist exercise; Akerman's defenders, however, were awed by her visual aesthetic and use of real time to emphasize the routine of her protagonist's world. Thanks to the film's exposure, Akerman was able to secure financial backing from the Gaumont company and from German TV for the striking "Les Rendezvous d'Anna" (1978). Her first semi-commercial effort, it featured popular French actors Aurore Clement and Jean-Pierre Cassel in a story of a female director trekking across Europe to promote her latest film. Again, static camerawork and minimal dialogue created a sense of alienation which mirrored the emptiness and insincerity of the protagonist's encounters. After failing to raise $25 million for an adaptation of Isaac Bashevis Singer's 1969 novel "The Manor," Akerman returned to independent production with "All Night Long" (1982), an insightful drama contrasting romantic illusions with harsh realities. Akerman's "Golden Eighties" (1986) was a satire of musicals set completely within the confines of a Brussels shopping mall. Here too her concern was with idealized notions of romance; unlike her earlier works, however, the central story is complemented by several subplots and the film's pacing is a little more sprightly, although Akerman's signature static camera provides a unique perspective on the structured world of the shopping mall. In 1988 Akerman returned to New York to film "American Stories/Food, Family and Philosophy," an exploration of her Jewish heritage through a series of stories told by immigrants. In the '90s, Akerman moved into more commercial filmmaking as the independent film boom allowed more idiosyncratic cinematic approaches into the mainstream. The drama "Night and Day" (1991) attracted widespread critical attention, and was followed by "A Couch in New York" (1996), Akerman's most accessible film to date, starring William Hurt, Juliette Binoche, and Richard Jenkins. For the rest of her career, Akerman split her attention between experimental films, documentaries, and narrative features like "The Captive" (2000) and "Tomorrow We Move" (2004), both of which were co-written by Dutch novelist and theorist Eric de Kuyper. An adaptation of the Joseph Conrad novel "Almayer's Folly" (2010) received widespread critical acclaim. Akerman's final film, "No Home Movie" (2015), was a documentary about her mother, Natalia (who died in 2014), and her inability to speak about her experiences at Auschwitz. Chantal Akerman committed suicide on or about October 5, 2015, in Paris. She was 65 years old.
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Made first film, "Saute ma ville/Blow Up My City" (35mm, 13mins), shown at Oberhausen Film Festival in 1971
Made four non-feature-length films, most notably "Hotel Monterey" (16mm, 65mins)
Wrote and directed "Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles", what she referred to as a "love letter" to her mother
Helmed the TV-movie "Dis-moi/Tell Me"
Wrote and directed "Toute une nuit/All Night Long"
Co-directed "Seven Women, Seven Sins"
Directed, wrote and starred in "Chantal Akerman by Chantal Akerman"
Directed "Sud", an examination of the US South