No Home Movie
Documentary about humans dealing with changing technology, the basic concepts of communication, cinema, and Akerman's mother, seen in her Brussels apartment.
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★★★★★ review by Willow Maclay on Letterboxd
"The opening frame of Chantal Akerman’s final film No Home Movie is a near-static shot of a barren tree being torn apart by vicious bursts of wind. The old tree doesn’t fall, but you have to wonder how it persists in spite of the surroundings. She holds her camera on this tree for about four minutes, allowing the viewer to feel the passage of time and ponder the reasons why she held the camera on that tree for so long and what it could possibly mean. The image doesn’t necessarily open itself up to easy interpretation—Akerman was never one to make an easy picture—but it informs the type of experience that Chantal’s mother, Natalia, is going through during her final moments of failing health. The tree could also represent Chantal’s displacement. The title “No Home Movie” is blunt in conveying Akerman’s mother as her only place of comfort, but it also ties into her camera. Her lens—ironically most-widely known for the patience of Jeanne Dielman—has in fact never been able to sit in one country for long, as evidenced by documentaries like D’est (1993); South (1999); From the Other Side (2002); and Là-bas (2006), which saw the director move from Moscow to Israel and the United States. Akerman also has trouble staying in one place during No Home Movie, with many scenes of the director at home having conversations in her mother’s kitchen, but frequently being taken away to work on other projects or attend film festivals all over the world. In this way, No Home Movie displays the root of a key element of Akerman’s oeuvre—but it goes beyond the displacement into her more frequent themes of the Holocaust, her relationship with her mother, and the framing of the female body in solitary space."
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★★★★½ review by Erin Provolone on Letterboxd
"Where is Chantal?"
Tying her shoes, getting up, closing the curtains, and leaving the frame as composed as she began it. Sounds continue, but their sources are offscreen.
I don't know what drove Chantal Akerman to share so much of herself with us, but I wish I could thank her for it.
★★★★½ review by Sophy on Letterboxd
It’s difficult to watch this film objectively without considering the tragic circumstances that surround it. Its normal to watch a film in which the characters/actors that occupy it are now deceased, but in the case of No Home Movie, it almost feels like that element is part of the film. It reads part love letter, and part suicide note. It’s filled with such jarring emotional contrasts: maternal love & memories of the holocaust. Akerman’s mother asks over Skype why she is filming her and she replies “Because I want to show that there is no distance in the world.” The connection between her and her mother is indisputably strong, one can only imagine the heartbreak Akerman felt in losing her considering this. The film feels like an unfiltered subconscious, grasping at the last moments with the person who meant the most to her in life. The opening shot of a tree blowing in the wind feels otherworldly...a destination that is located between life and death like some kind of middle ground. And then, the last shot of the film. Two vases sit atop of a dresser in Akerman’s mothers home, positioned in the centre of the frame, almost like two matching urns resting peacefully together.
Haunting, difficult and necessary.
★★★★ review by josh lewis on Letterboxd
"it was so great to have you here"
"i haven't gone yet"
★★★★★ review by Josiah Morgan on Letterboxd
We're all alone, even if we share our loneliness with others. There are bursts of childish exuberance as simple as pop music playing on the radio, mostly heartbreaking because of how much of a literal home movie this is. This is exactly the movie I would make in the same situation (I'm not saying I'm anywhere near as good as Akerman is) which further reinforces my belief that Akerman is one of the greatest artists ever to have lived. I mostly love the gaps: only viewing the subject of the entire film through a doorway, or a shot through a window onto the street - wanting to get out of your confines (mentally and physically) but your only escape is art. If you've ever lost someone, this is going to hurt, but it will probably hurt even more if that person was someone you loved, but don't know if you even liked. There are moments in this film that I find distracting or misplaced but that doesn't matter because the cumulative effect is so huge. I miss people I've never met and hate people I have. No Home Movie is an examination of perfect circles and the insular nature of life - my worldview onscreen, only the images projected are of someone else's life. There is no escape so we may as well embrace what we're left with.
Sometimes what we're left with is not very much.
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