Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art


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PostPosted: Thu Sep 24, 2015 6:11 pm 
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CHANTAL ACKERMAN'S MOTHER NATALIA IN NO HOME MOVIE


Economy or emptiness?

When one considers that the topic of this film, Chantal Ackerman's mother Natalia, nearing the end of her life, is at the center of her large multi-media body of work, it is disappointing to find ourselves spending most of nearly two hours looking at the interior of a comfortable Brussels apartment. Occasionally here are brief conversations between Chantal and her mother, in person and by Skype. The Skype ones are the worst, but also are a touching indication of how interactions with the elderly can be reduced to repetitious platitudes when both speakers would rather be saying important, significant things.

Ackerman's mother was a Polish survivor of Auschwitz who married and started a family in Brussels. The filmmaker follows her usual observational style, which means that the camera sits there. Sometimes people move, and sometimes they don't. Several long interludes of the camera sitting there watching a windy desert landscape are not explained. They may be taken as an objective correlative of her mother's hard early life. What we learn explicitly from conversation about Ackerman's mother is basic.

Taking a hint from Peter Debruge's Locarno review for [url="http://variety.com/2015/film/reviews/no-home-movie-film-review-1201566469/"]Variety[/url], we can say this film makes frequent references to her, Chantal's, own rootlessness, while at the same time reaffirming her closeness to her mother, and incidentally Natalia's closeness to her own mother. Debruge says (but this film does not explicitly state) that Chantal no longer considers Brussels her home; and at one point she is Skyping Natalia from Oklahoma.

It reminds me of my other father in his last days that Natalia at one point says Chantal never talks to her about the interesting things she is doing. Indeed Chantal seems confined to simplistic "interview" type questions and affectionate banalities. This, the material of family footage everywhere, is touching but not interesting.

What of the title? It may be in a similar category with Panahi's This Is Not a Film. This film may be "formally demanding" (Debruge), but it is pretty much a home movie, if by a famous avant-gardist filmmaker studiously eschewing charm or conventional polish. But Debruge reports that this film "was booed by some at its press screening in Locarno, where critics fully expect the lineup to test their limits."

No Home Movie, 115 mins., debuted 10 August 2015 at Locarno; also shown at Toronto, and at the New York Film Festival; it was screened as part of the latter for this review.

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