Chantal Ackerman : classe de maître

The so-called master class is conducted by someone who claimed quite frankly to have neither enough experience nor enough interest to teach. Like many female filmmakers, Ackerman is hostile to anything related to technology and she does not try to hide the fact that she is in fact proud of the fact. This is a truth probably never realized by many. Since in film school the technology is already a more substantial teaching material than the others. If we do not rely on technology to make films, then what do we have?

The initiation of Ackerman, as well as her personality, are revealing in this aspect. The very first film that struke her is Pierre le Fou. Before that experience all her interest is in literature (and that is the reason that nearly all her films are heavily charged with words). Then what is in the film that struke her? The expression of freedom of adolescents, said her. The crazy carefreeness, the obsession with the book, the most unimaginable adventurous self-destructive impulse, I think. And the reason is simple. She experienced more or less the same thing at the moment. And this is made evident by her first short film, Saute ma ville, made three years after. There is this energetic fat girl (played by a 18 years old Ackerman) who imagines, after having done all sorts of nonsense things in the kitchen, that she could blow up the city by lighting her gas stove.

Ivone Margulies summarizes this beautifully:

The idea of explosion that fuels Saute Ma Ville seems borrowed from the general mood of unrestrained, unbounded energy in Pierre le fou, a film of anarchic force which at its limit makes it impossible to distinguish despair from gaiety, tragedy from visual effect. Akerman share s this sense of unassimilated energy with Godard, and it reappears throughout her work (Nothing happens, 2-3).

In this 11 minute episode there are already several things made clear. First, Ackerman is not afraid to expose herself in front of the camera. As a matter of fact, she pretty enjoyed it, not the way an actress enjoy being looked at, but to a certain unclaimed purpose, for example, to alleviate the craziness, to emancipate herself from some unbearable weightiness. 30 years later, in Chantal Ackerman par Chantal Ackerman, her chapter in a French TV program Cinéma de notre temps, she did not hesitate to have close-ups of her face, which is not really very good to look at.

This of course can be explained by her overt self-centeredness. She does not wait to let you finish your sentence. As soon as she has something to say, she must say it right now. And she is going to overwhelm you anyway by the raised volume of her voice. I am sure there are people who not only do not find it irritating but also accept it as the only form of charisma. Or maybe a woman has to overdo the aggressive part in order to survive in a world dominated by men? But what a difference she makes in comparison to Agnès Varda!


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