Chantal Akerman’s methodology
“If you start with no ideas, something happens.”
Chantal Akerman (1950–2015)
Last week, I decided I had to do something about my tabs. You know the story: one browser window, approximately one million tabs. Most were articles that I intended to read at some future date, and mostly I decided: OK, enough, I admit defeat, you are released.
But one tab I paused over: the rental screen for an hourlong documentary about the late Belgian filmmaker Chantal Akerman. I couldn’t remember when or why I landed on this film, but I thought: There must be some reason, I’ll just watch it.
A good decision! The film immediately turned up a useful tidbit for my ongoing/never-ending book project, about how Akerman financed her early films, which I think is best conveyed in screengrabs. These are from the very beginning of the documentary, when Akerman is talking about first arriving in New York City, in 1971:
Ha! Admittedly, the story is a little unclear—I’m assuming Akerman would pocket the money for every other ticket she sold, which is why she ripped the tickets in half. Later, she also describes stealing boxes of 35mm film from a film lab.
I enjoyed Akerman’s presence so much that I ended up watching another documentary about her, from 2011. This one was just a long interview, and Akerman seems a little annoyed to be there, as if she had agreed to participate at some earlier point and now regretted it. But it still had some amazing insights into her process, like when the interviewer asks about Akerman’s writing routine: