OTB#72: News From Home

I wasn’t going to do this movie, because I watched it a couple years ago, and apparently no bluray version has been released. (The one I saw was on DVD.) But I was idly googling, and it turns out that it’s available on der torrentzes in a 2K version!

So that’s what I’m watching, arr.

I was surprised to see that this movie had made the Top 100 — it’s great, but it’s a somewhat experimental film, and those don’t fare well on these lists. The film is, basically, Akerman doing shots of New York (usually quite long takes), while the soundtrack is Akerman reading letters she received from her mother when Akerman was staying in New York a couple years earlier.

So kinda conceptual?

It’s hypnotic. The camera almost never pans or does anything, but it’s sometimes on a car or on the subway. We don’t hear anybody talking, but we do get environmental sounds (mostly cars driving by, and I’m not sure whether they’re natural sounds or foley. (Perhaps a mix?) There’s long breaks between some of the letters, and when Akerman’s voice finally drops in, it’s like some kind of revelation somehow. And sometimes her voice is overpowered by the car noises and we can’t make out what she’s reading.

I don’t know how this film works, but it does.

Part of the charm is, of course, that it’s New York in the 70s — and it’s mostly filmed from the street, so we get to enjoy the American Aesthetic.

I’m guessing noe of these people know they are the stars of a famous movie!

But… but… this is the start of the final scene? The movie is over?!?! WHA

Yeah, it’s a 90 minute movie, but it feels like it’s 15 minutes long. It’s just that riveting. It’s just inexplicably engrossing, watching these people and these streets and listening to Akerman’s mother’s letters.

And I’ve got these people to thank for giving me an excuse to watch this movie again:

And I hope somebody does a bluray release — I’m looking at you Criterion. I’ll buy it and watch the movie again, because this pirated version left a bit to be desired: The compression algos are especially problematic when there’s a camera that doesn’t move, because then the compression artefacts shift from one state to another when the picture changes minutely, and that’s really annoying.

News From Home. Chantal Akerman. 1976.

This blog post is part of the Officially The Best 2022 series.

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