Thursday, 8 January 2015

Capital Celluloid 2015 - Day 22: Thu Jan 22

D'Est (Akerman, 1993): ICA Cinema, 7pm

This is the latest screening in the A Nos Amours film club's full Chantal Akerman retrospective.

Here is the ICA introduction:
D’Est is a wordless winter travelogue through the countries of Eastern Europe, from East Germany, through Poland and the Baltic states, across Russia towards Moscow and its cavernous terminal stations. The Soviet era has gone, a collapse leaving behind a seemingly stunned, endless waiting populace. The film begins with a series of late summer images, at the beach, or lazily in the park. Winter threatens. Long lines of anonymous people, suggestive of resignation and an unfathomable fortitude. Akerman’s camera tracks these lines, catching the stamp of frozen feet, the hunch of shoulders bearing the cold.

Domesticity life is a silent one though sentimental songs can be played on a gramophone and may be company of a sort. Sausage and bread and salt are on the supper menu for one. Even the grand terminal stations of the capital serve only to lend the waiting crowds a new kind of insignificance. Bleak, for sure, but beautiful image-making and laying our of materials, the deft and caring work of a great artist.

It is hard not to think of Samuel Beckett in this absorbing study of human futility, especially the exchange from Endgame: Clov: “If I don't kill the rat, he'll die”… Hamm: “That's right.”

Chicago Reader review:
Chantal Akerman's haunting 1993 masterpiece documents without commentary or dialogue her several-months-long trip from east Germany to Moscow—a tough and formally rigorous inventory of what the former Soviet bloc looks and feels like today. Akerman's penchant for finding Edward Hopper wherever she goes has never been more obvious; this travelogue seemingly offers vistas any alert tourist could find yet delivers a series of images and sounds that are impossible to shake later: the countless tracking shots, the sense of people forever waiting, the rare plaint of an offscreen violin over an otherwise densely ambient sound track, static glimpses of roadside sites and domestic interiors, the periphery of an outdoor rock concert, a heavy Moscow snowfall, a crowded terminal where weary people and baggage are huddled together like so many dropped handkerchiefs. The only other film I know that imparts such a vivid sense of being somewhere is the Egyptian section of Straub-Huillet's Too Early, Too Late. Everyone goes to movies in search of events, but the extraordinary events in Akerman's sorrowful, intractable film are the shots themselves—the everyday recorded by a powerful artist with an acute eye and ear.

Jonathan Rosenbaum

Here (and above) is an extract from the film.

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