Chantal Akerman: A Sampler

A monthlong film series screens four of the video artist’s best-known works

In Je, tu, il, elle, one of the films being screened in the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston series Chantal Akerman: A Sampler, the lead character, played by Akerman (who also directs), explores -obsessive-compulsive behavior and sexuality. In the first part of the film, Akerman uses her signature extended single-take shots to show the character alone in her apartment. Ritualistically eating only sugar for almost a month, the woman repeatedly writes, then rewrites, letters to her lover. Is this behavior good or bad? Akerman doesn’t tell us, she just shows us the character, in all her obsessive-compulsive glory. In the last section of the film, the character arrives at her female lover’s apartment, where she admits she’s hungry and finally eats something. After dinner, we see the two women making love, the rustle of the bedsheets and occasional grunts the only sounds in the room. Instead of eroticizing the action, Akerman examines it to the point of neutralizing it. It is neither passion nor rage, it simply is.

Akerman’s style and vision led The Village Voice to call her “arguably the most important European director of her generation.” You can see a sampler of her films throughout this month. Today’s screening includes Chantal Akerman par Chantal Akerman at 5 p.m. and Je, tu, il, elle at 7 p.m. Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 1001 Bissonnet. For more showtimes and tickets, call 713-639-7515 or visit www.mfah.org. Free.
Fri., Feb. 8, 5 p.m.; Fri., Feb. 15, 5 p.m., 2008

 
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