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Themesicon: navigation pathArt and Cinematographyicon: navigation pathAkerman
Toward a Corporeal Cinema: Theatricality in the '70s [1]
Ivone Margulies
News from Home (Akerman, Chantal), 1976


In my films I follow an opposite trajectory to that of the makers of political films. They have a skeleton, an idea and then they put on flesh: I have in the first place the flesh, the skeleton appears later. Chantal Akerman, 1975 [2]

In «Hotel Monterey» and «News from Home» (1976), two of Chantal Akerman's films made in New York under the influence of structural filmmaking, a fixed shot of an empty corridor, or of a crowded subway car (human absence, human presence), maps the range of possibilities of structural film. When the elevator door opens onto an empty corridor in «Hotel Monterey», the image can be considered as a set of lines, colors, perspectival illusions. When the [camera] opens into a hall full of people, this moment of mutual acknowledgment intimates a register of performance for documentary structural film. The dichotomy between two kinds of space (the elevator and the various floors) is acknowledged only when the «shutter»—the elevator doors—is open. This is also the point, at which the dyad of viewer and object is activated, in a mirroring effect. The camera is


fixed—in the elevator, or, in «News from Home», perpendicular to the opening doors of a moving subway train, granting an ever changing scenario, as new strangers encounter it. The camera stubbornly addresses this obtrusive viewer, as briefly as the contact of a glance or for as long as a stare. [3] The relative closeness of the hotel transients or subway riders to the camera turns into an example of proxemics…. In «News from Home» the camera «functions as a recording device in suspense.» [4] The camera's potency is measured for some time; finally, it is revealed as too insistent, when it forces a rider into the deep perspective of a whole subway car, and even into the next car, until he vanishes from sight. In both these works, the fixed, oblivious camera creates both the frame and the impetus for the emergence of performance … on the part of passersby.


That a layered dimension, usually of a performatic order, results from an excessively dry cinema will be one of my claims regarding Akerman's theatricality. Most immediately the term theatricality refers to her

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