05 février 2008

Portrait d'une jeune fille de la fin des années 60 à Bruxelles (Chantal Akerman, 1994)

Above: Paul (Julian Rassam) and Michèle (Circé), the young girl of the title.
Image courtesy: Arte.


Last night, MoMA played two installments from the series "Tous les garçons et les filles de leur âge...", a series of one-hour television episodes "in which French directors were asked to contribute films based on their recollections of adolescence" (BFI). The first episode shown was Chantal Akerman's PORTRAIT OF A YOUNG WOMAN AT THE END OF THE 1960S IN BRUSSELS, followed by Claire Denis's U.S. GO HOME. Denis's film (which was co-written by Anne Wiazemsky) is a rich portrayal of the emotional components of being on the cusp of maturity, of the moments of striving for your maturity to be recognized - and of the moments when both that recognition and its lack leave you wounded. It's a film to be savored.


Akerman's episode is an achievement of an entirely different level. It moves beyond being one of the great coming-of-age films; it is simply one of the great films. A moving, multifaceted, and magical hour, presented with honesty and subtle artistry.

The film's nuances are beyond summary. So, some sketches:
A girl has decided to ditch school forever; she tears up her report card. At the movies, a boy next to her touches her leg with his; they talk, they kiss. They spend the day together. The girl makes plans to attend a party. They steal a Leonard Cohen record. She breaks into a relative's house so the boy has a place to sleep.

Things happen beyond these sketches, but I will leave them aside. These simple events are full of poetry, of confusion, discovery, ambivalence, insecurity, beauty.

The title character is played by Circé Lethem (who, incidentally, is the daughter of Belgian filmmaker Roland Lethem). She is luminous. Her character thinks that her friend is much prettier, but even though she's right she's also wrong and it's the boy who's right, the boy who thinks she's beautiful.

I'm overwhelmed by everything in this film. It's the film I'd like to watch, the moments I'd like to remember, the movie I want to make. It's perfect.


And it's playing again on Wed, Feb 6 at 6 PM at MoMA in New York.

8 commentaires:

jmac a dit…

Your writing is so beautiful . . . it has brightened my morning!

dave a dit…

Jen, thanks so much. It's wonderful to think of your morning brightened by this! I hope that you - and anyone else reading this - is free to have your evening brightened by this film tonight. In which case, I'll see you there (yes, I'm going again).

Daniel a dit…

lovely, lovely piece. so lovely in fact...yoink!

dave a dit…

by which Danny means, it's been cross posted (with my permission) at The Auteurs.

"yoink!" really did make me laugh out loud.

Dan Sallitt a dit…

Dave - thanks for pushing the Akerman - I really liked it, and would have missed it without your recommendation.

Structure means a lot in this film, doesn't it? And in Akerman in general, I guess. At the end of the central section, the boy-girl interlude, I liked the movie but wouldn't have called it exceptional. Seems to me that the stakes were greatly raised when Akerman followed with the more emotionally naked, rather desolate girl-girl section, and refracted the boy-girl interaction through that lens.

A lot of the power of the film comes from the way that that lively middle section, with its sense of event and almost of entitlement, is drained of its primacy - we are finally forced to view it as just an exhibit in a sad gallery.

dave a dit…

Dan,
I'm glad you caught it. I have lots of thoughts on the film's formal aspects, but am still in constant awe of the film's poetry.

The final section is terrific, and its relation to the film's structure is an amplification of traces not quite explored previously. I would have written about it, but wasn't sure how to do so poetically in the mode of my sketches above while still staying spoiler-free.

At some point I may write a longer piece on the film, but for now I'd just like to let it ruminate - unless, of course, I get the chance to see it again!

Elizabeth McKee a dit…

hi Dave! I didn't know you had a blog--I found it through Danny's. I went on Wed--I'm surprised I didn't see you! I only caught from Leonard Cohen on out in the Akerman, but everything I saw I adored. US Go Home, to me, was perfect. I am obsessed with finding a copy of it somehow..I just want to watch it over and over. and, of course, watch the Akerman in its entirety. that actress really was incredible..the amazing James Brown scene made me wish all cinema was just close-ups of girls' faces.

dave a dit…

Liz - You've GOT to see the whole thing.

I left after the Akerman on Wednesday; I decided I wanted that film to rattle around in my head for a few days more with no distractions. That's why we didn't run into each other!

U.S. Go Home was indeed great.

I also sometimes wish that all cinema was just close-ups of girls' faces.

As for tracking down these for future viewing, I am also obsessed. I would watch it every day if i could.