No Home Movie Screen 46 articles

No Home Movie

2015

No Home Movie Poster
  • While more diplomatic viewers will extend the benefit of doubt to Akerman's audaciously personal work, this critic can't get beyond byline bias. Though it's apparently enough that someone of Akerman's repute has asked us to watch a film all about her mother, if it were someone less celebrated, nobody would give a damn. Indeed, this is of no more inherent value than Gipsofilia, a similarly diaristic film by Portugal's Margarida Leitão that premiered at IndieLisboa earlier this year.

  • Starts out excruciating, like Jeanne Dielman minus Jeanne Dielman—shots of empty rooms (into which Akerman's mother may or may not occasionally, fleetingly wander) alternating with shots of human stasis... Eventually, Akerman does start talking to her mother, which is a blessed relief. Rarely, though, do these conversations transcend mundane chitchat.

  • If Proust was able to prise open an entire milieu (a city, a country, a world) in his relationship to himself, Akerman, in exploring her relationship to her mother, does not get much beyond her mother’s apartment. Such moments raise issues of authorial expressivity, but the author/artist has to have the (admittedly elusive) sense of what will interest audiences, and it is hard to see multi-minute shots of an empty living room really engaging viewers.

  • Akerman’s suicide, which came as a shock last October, gives morbid gravitas to the project, especially since it deals with mortality, often indirectly. But though No Home Movie is a very personal work by someone who was always a deeply personal artist, it’s hard to tune into. It contains a lot of Akerman, but very little of her art, and that seems intentional; the low-grade video is haphazardly composed, with the camera sometimes plopped down on a table or a counter.

  • With few external excursions (mysterious intercessions of footage of the Israeli desert, as well as Chantal, while traveling in anonymous hotel rooms, Skyping her mother), No Home Movie is a taut but patient observation of the emptying stillness of a home inhabited by someone getting older and sicker.

  • To me, it has always seemed churlish and a little passive-aggressive for a critic to label a film “not for beginners,” but the god’s honest truth is, No Home Movie is not for beginners... The ideal viewer of No Home Movie already cares at least somewhat about Akerman as an artist and thinker, and is capable of seeing some of the extremely subtle aspects of No Home Movie that, to most people, are barely there.

  • A tender, at times deliberately agonizing portrait... In distilling the filmmaker’s lifelong filial devotion, No Home Movie also intimates the darker, more complex side of that intense attachment. When Chantal, Skypeing with Natalia from Oklahoma, tells her mother, “I want to show that there is no distance in the world,” she’s referring not just to collapsed miles and time zones.

  • If you speak Akerman’s language, the concept of her making a film chronicling her real-time regret over her role in her mother’s life is too peremptory an experience to ignore. The woman whose life I’ve watched through her collection of images, each of them as much about her journey as any of her subject’s, freely offers a glimpse inside the darkest moments of her life. To refuse them would be sacrilege, no matter how painful the movie can sometimes feel.

  • Chantal's mother remains a mystery to her; she shows that to us through her framing or her use of focus. Still, these scenes are pleasurable. The long shots are more testing when she focuses on the lack of persons. Empty apartments, and drifting shots of the Israeli desert — another evocation of the troubled nature of home that Akerman seems to struggle with in regards to her Jewish background.

  • No Home Movie is an act of avant-garde deconstruction as much a piece of portraiture. Most home movies don't cut away to landscapes and empty rooms or keep the camera rolling through banal action, and none are so mournful about the winding down of a special relationship. It's an exceptionally challenging and enigmatic work, especially for Akerman neophytes, but there's an intimacy to it that's occasionally startling.

  • No Home Movie, which runs at almost two hours, certainly requires a specific sensibility to be appreciated and it’s almost surprising that Akerman would want to share such an intimate work with an audience. Those thus inclined, however, are rewarded with a beautiful and thoroughly stirring document of filial love.

  • The documentary unfolds in a series of shots of stifling interior spaces—at times resembling a kind of rough, contemporary videogram of Jeanne Dielman—and sotto voce conversations, most mundane, some harrowing. At the (initially) packed press screening, this combination frustrated a large number of attendees, and they departed swiftly and consistently, leaving an increasingly improved viewing environment.

  • A devastating documentary portrait of the filmmaker’s mother Natalia (Nelly) Akerman in the final months of her life... Both elliptical and tryingly quotidian, No Home Movie is a shattering contemplation of loss and grief as much as it is a search for identity and calm, for rootedness from a perpetually nomadic, breathless soul. It is not a home movie: it is a movie about having no home.

  • [No Home Movie is] a home movie that evokes the raw material of [Jeanne Dielman]... Eliciting her mother’s tales of escape from Poland and deportation to Auschwitz, of her grandparents’ religious devotion and her father’s flight to secularism, Akerman enfolds vast currents of history in a prodigal daughter’s tale of concern for an ailing parent.

  • Interspersed with lengthy shots of the wind-blown Israeli desert, a gesture connecting history to hermitage, No Home Movie is a powerfully personal portrait of unbreakable bonds.

  • Akerman's nomadic career comprehensively grapples with an existential division between self and place, which remains no matter the mediated evolution. Innovation, then, unites the film with News from Home, where each work implicitly addresses its predominant mode of epochal communication.

  • This is a film of unspeakable emotions, not platitudes; of how life and death can instill a room with meaning, not the lessons we learn from pain and loss. It would make for a fascinating pairing with Laurie Anderson’s new film Heart of a Dog, showing how different artists absorb the pain from the death of a loved one and then try to express it through cinema. For Anderson, death unleashes a lyrical, highly verbal consideration of all things shining; for Akerman, it leaves a blank, quiet space.

  • It is composed entirely out of images, shot by Chantal with a little camera, of her beloved mother in the last phase of her life... passages of raw unfolding time exactingly positioned against one another, slowly acquiring centrifugal force and moving toward an inevitable conclusion. No home movie is right. All the tenderness, all the attention, all the care, all the phone calls and Skype conversations and prescriptions filled and meals made and linen washed will not ward off death.

  • It is a film that, like all others she made, opens Akerman’s cinema up further and complicates it... Akerman may have been left with questions about existence that she herself couldn’t answer, but she asked them beautifully, often painfully, and we are privileged to be able to continue searching along with her timeless, powerful images.

  • What it yields isn’t quite intimacy thwarted—it’s closer to a painfully accurate representation of the inherent limitations of intimacy. Bringing us physically closer runs the risk of overestimating the possibility of emotional or spiritual closeness. Akerman’s rarely on screen, and she’s never the focus when she is. Her revelations aren’t about what’s seen, but rather about the complications, frustrations and integrity of seeing.

  • Chantal Akerman’s slowly unfurling, enigmatic last film is a documentary about her mother, an Auschwitz survivor filmed inside her Brussels apartment. The Belgian cinema innovator tries to capture her memory and reconcile notions of home and placelessness through her mother’s quiet routine in this domestic space and her wartime recollections, interspersed with shots of unpeopled, arid landscapes.

  • Natalia stirs in her sleep and mumbles, as if in a dream, but the words never come. This is, as far as I know, a unique scene in all of the cinema. In real time, we observe as a life’s stories become lost to the world. It’s devastating, and with Akerman’s passing, doubly so.

  • Akerman was radical enough to leave us completely alone and out there with her film, and at the same take us into it to join the painful intimacy with her mother. It made the news about her death all the more unbearable.

  • ++

    Sight & Sound: Kieron Corless
    January 04, 2016 | February 2016 Issue (p. 53) | Viennale

    It's a hard film to watch, especially in the light of Akerman's recent suicide but, like the Oliveira [Visit, or Memories and Confessions], it is fearless, formally controlled and magnificent in its self-exposure.

  • Akerman returns to the subject that’s always been implicit at the core of her films, the Holocaust, but she does it once again with supreme moral commitment that directs her engagement to be simultaneously profound and tangential—the only way, it seems, that the subject can be accommodated by cinema (which should be an abject lesson to failures of imagination like Son of Saul).

  • Chantal Akerman's final film shares some formal concerns with her earlier works; what sets it apart is a stream of love and yearning, regret and loss, from which painful memories resurface... The combination of memoir and abstraction is both cerebral and heartrending.

  • Examining topics from the mundane to the meaningful, Akerman uses her avant-garde sensibility to meditate on both a relationship and a lifetime in less than two hours. Much of her work imitated life in all its glorious banality, but NO HOME MOVIE considers life at its most honest and sublime.

  • No Home Movie starts on a long shot, in a non-descript desert swept by a violent wind, with a meagre tree that twists and bends, suffering maybe, yet resisting. And the shot lasts, without title or voice over, with the sound of the wind as sole accompaniment. And we start thinking. What is in this shot that is so haunting? In our mind we outline the image of a woman, herself twisting and shaking, and resisting, under the gust of the wind, holding a Blackberry, to capture this image.

  • In these bleak landscapes, expansiveness doesn’t necessarily come to elicit hope until you let it (assuming you’re buying into the seven stages of the Kübler-Ross model). Still, this isn’t a self-help manual or therapy via art: No Home Movie immerses you in a feeling and holds you there. What you ascertain from the experience, or how it connects to your own losses, is just as personal as the film is to Akerman.

  • If you let it, No Home Movie invites you in first with its intimacy and then its deep feeling. It’s filled with Akerman’s signatures, like images of doorways, halls and obliquely shot rooms, which can make her seem like a spy in her mother’s house. This is not, as the title reminds you, a home movie in the usual sense, and yet it is. The deaths haunting it as well as some of its themes — the Holocaust, that far-off desert and the refuge we find in another’s embrace — can make it unbearably sad.

  • ...Akerman zooms in to the Skype window, an extreme close-up on her mother’s face, already so close to the computer, straining to hear her daughter’s voice, that all we see is her eye. Which Akerman then distorts into an abstraction of light. I want to show there’s no distance anymore, she explains to her mother who still doesn’t understand, never has. But maybe she knows that’s not it at all. It’s something quite beautiful, yes, transient, blurred, revealing of nothing but further unknowables.

  • It’s hard to think of a recent film as intimate as No Home Movie... It’s harder still to imagine that this delicate, deeply personal work had its world premiere on a giant screen with 1,000 audience members at last year’s Locarno International Film Festival, an experience Akerman described as “terrifying and ironic.” The film might best be watched in a small setting like a microcinema, or even on a small screen, to best capture its many layers of fragility.

  • When I first saw "No Home Movie" at Locarno in August, I was impressed with Akerman's ambitious approach to embedding subtle ideas in ordinary exchanges and visual tangents, but less enveloped in the bigger picture... On second viewing, it hit me: This is a movie about everything — the intimate moments shared by two people in a room, the sadness of being alone, and the indifference of the universe to everyone's petty problems, no matter how fucked up they appear in the moment.

  • If Akerman appears only in shadows and fragments, the director’s need for her subject carries an almost physical throb. Natalia is so richly anticipated in every patiently wrought, exquisitely framed tableau that her actual arrival within each one is almost beside the point.

  • The unique, almost excruciating intimacy of what’s onscreen alone is almost powerful enough in itself—“almost” only because some prior familiarity with Akerman’s work offers some crucial context for No Home Movie’s mother-focus, fascination with household interiors and fondness for the long take. It’s not pretty as a picture, but you can’t walk away from No Home Movie without knowing you’ve seen a lifelong filial affection and appreciation almost primally expressed.

  • ++

    Film Comment: Amy Taubin
    May 03, 2016 | May/June 2016 Issue (p. 32)

    It may turn out to be Akerman's most memorable work and also the one that connect to audiences more directly than any other of the roughly 50 moving-image works (fiction features, documentaries, shorts, video installations) that comprise her oeuvre. As great films do, No Home Movie revivifies its subjects in order to share with us a primal truth about mortality and the mothers who live in us—whether we like it or not—from our first breath to our last.

  • It concludes with the final and irrevocable absence of Maman, and is throughout intimately concerned with the movements of women within circumscribed domestic spaces. In other words, it shows Akerman's particular set of preoccupations and obsessions very much intact, but finds her adopting new modes and forms in order to explore them.

  • The austere filmmaking contrasts with Natalia’s direct emotionality, fashioning a portrait of loss that resonates as an illustration of our potentially futile efforts to understand our loved ones.

  • These elegant images, delivered without context, could simply be shots that Akerman collected over time; strung together, they generate a meaning that bridges their vast geographic distance. They create a sense of ephemera, as well as a lulling beauty that is suddenly disrupted by the blocky, heavily processed streaming video of a Skype session.

  • The film opens with a lengthy stationary shot of a lone tree buffeted by strong winds. Sere barren fields stretch into the distance. An image of brute survival. The unthinking hearty life force. The cumulative effect of No Home Movie is devastating, even more so since Akerman is no longer with us.

  • Of course Akerman’s movie about the illness and death of her mother, and her subsequent deeply felt absence, hit me hard in 2015, a few months after I lost my own mom. And then we lost Chantal Akerman.

  • Little can prepare a viewer for the rawness of No Home Movie, the last film by the extraordinary Chantal Akerman. Like the spindly tree lashed by desert winds in the film’s first, unending shot, we are laid bare by this painfully intimate documentary about the final year of the filmmaker’s mother’s life.

  • ++

    Film Comment: Nicolas Rapold
    January 03, 2017 | January/February 2017 Issue (p. 51)

    With this final stroke of uniquely personal brilliance, the master filmmaker's final work also reminded the ever-burgeoning "hybrid nonfiction" landscape of artistic debts owed, and how vital and central her place is in the history of cinema.

  • A fitting last chapter of Akerman's career and life. A kind of sequel to her 1977 diaristic experiment News from Home, the film is a lucid meditation on intimacy and distance. Every lo-fi-video frame quivers with an escapable sense of grief and loss. My heart still aches.

  • In the end, stasis and death prevail. Darkness becomes a veil and a shadow that, I find, wasn’t (visually) as present in the films I had watched previously. No Home Movie is no home movie. It is Akerman’s personal farewell; a farewell to her mother, to film, to the world. A striking last film whose images and conversations will stay with me for a long time.

  • At once presumptuous and unpretentious, No Home Movie is an emotional, essentially private working-out of a second-generation Holocaust survivor’s conflicted feelings or maybe what Freud would call a woman’s pre-Oedipal attachment to her mother. Almost incidentally, it provides a prism through which to view the Brussels-born filmmaker’s brilliant, erratic, essential oeuvre.

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