Between her wunderkind arrival in the 1970s and her tragic death in 2015, Chantal Akerman was widely revered as one of cinema's most vital and fearless artists. Drawing from art cinema, ethnographic documentary, feminist theory, Jewish culture, popular genres, and the structural avant-garde, Akerman consistently rejected labels in her pursuit of a rigorous, personal cinema. Investing minute gestures, plays of light, and time itself with meaning and emotion, Akerman’s films demand the theatrical experience. This series (re)acquaints us with the genius and audacity of this singular, pioneering Belgian filmmaker. (ZZ)

  • Sat., Apr. 11 | 7:00 PM
    4070 Vilas Hall

For her first, daring narrative feature, Akerman distilled a life of concerns: the comfort and confinement of domestic space, the monster of depression, the highs and lows of queer love. Following a break-up, Julie (Akerman) flounders in her apartment, meets a truck driver in a bar, and reunites with her ex. These three acts each showcase unique minimalist styles, from deep contrast black-and-white to grungy handheld to flat, high-key lighting. Referring to her lead performance, which features self-destructive behavior and a sustained scene of lovemaking, Akerman in 2010 reflected, “I don’t act, it’s me, nothing else.” (ZZ)

  • Sat., Apr. 11 | 8:30 PM
    4070 Vilas Hall

A simple premise: Over footage of New York City, where she lived at the time, Akerman reads letters sent by her mother from Brussels. These sound and image tracks begin to compete, as her mother’s letters grow impatient and the bustle of the city takes over. Like no film until her last, No Home Movie (2015), this affecting experimental documentary explores the in-jokes, quarrels and devotion between Akerman and her mother Natalia, who survived the Holocaust. Masking the pain of being apart are the awe-inspiring sights and sounds of New York, filmed in the summer of 1976 and full of people, buildings, and stories no longer with us. (ZZ)

  • Sat., Apr. 18 | 7:00 PM
    4070 Vilas Hall

A privileged young man (Merhar) grows confused and envious when he suspects his girlfriend (Testud) is in love with another woman. This post-Vertigo tale of desire and control starts in an introspective, art film register only to wax into other genres, like the doomed Hollywood melodrama and—in a nighttime, a cappella duet—the musical. Based on La Prisonnière by Marcel Proust, La Captive showcases Akerman's late-career talent for literary adaptation, as filtered through her laconic, queer lens. Preceded by La Chambre (1972), a silent, 11-minute masterwork starring Akerman and influenced by the structural film movement. (ZZ)

  • Sun., Apr. 19 | 2:00 PM

Everything the movies omit: a single mother (Seyrig) cleaning, mothering, running errands, peeling potatoes, turning lights off, and waking up to do it all again. These actions elapse over what feels like real time, but through an accumulation of small, jagged details, the sex, suspense, and madness of the movies start to take over. Seyrig’s legendary performance embodies the film’s formal and thematic fissures, in sync with Akerman's immaculate framing, supple use light, and mesmeric editing patterns. Filmed when Akerman was 24 years old and with a nearly all-women crew, Jeanne Dielman is a watershed of feminist cinema, an unimpeachable classic, and a daunting, boundless work from all angles. (ZZ)

  • Sat., Apr. 25 | 7:00 PM
    4070 Vilas Hall

Akerman detours away from somber minimalism with a movie musical about the love-affairs and heartbreaks of an interconnected group of shopping-mall employees. Golden Eighties is considered by some as the unofficial sequel to Akerman’s masterpiece Jeanne Dielman, largely due to the return of leading lady Seyrig, and also for the recurring exploration of the ways in which labor becomes a coping mechanism for long simmering pain and regret. The jaunty, post-punk inspired songs (more Go-Go's than Rodgers & Hammerstein) become moving portraits of the ways in which sacrifice and compromise are all in a day’s work. (PL)