LES RENDEZ-VOUS D'ANNA (THE MEETINGS OF ANNA) (director/writer: Chantal Akerman; cinematographer: Jean Penzer; editor: Francine Sandberg; cast: Aurore Clément (Anna Silver), Helmut Griem (Heinrich), Magali Noël (Ida), Hanns Zischler (Hans), Lea Massari (La mère d'Anna), Jean-Pierre Cassel (Daniel); Runtime: 120; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Alain Dahan; Paradise Films; 1978-Belgium/France-in French with English subtitles)

"It's a sobering hypnotic study in modern relationships that has a bewildering pronouncement that is strangely erotic, cruel and terribly honest."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Chantal Akerman ("Toute Une Nuit"/"News from Home"/"Golden Eighties") presents a hyperrealistic personal vision of a postwar modern Europe in this descriptive, moody, and insightful odyssey drama. It's a spare film that's shot with a static camera and has many medium long shots, which might turn off those not fans of the director's arty style of filming. For others, the effect might be stunning; it causes the understated images to appear in a malaise, which is the way the feminist 28-year-old avant-garde filmmaker Akerman looks at modern man and his alienation and state of rootlessness. There's a certain elegance to this style of filmmaking that refuses to be drawn out to answer the questions it raises about the everyday affairs of the diverse characters it introduces.

The titular twentysomething Anna Silver (Aurore Clément) is an independent film director boarding a train somewhere in Germany that will take her on a promotional tour for her new film through Germany, Belgium and France. In each place, Anna finds someone who intimately confides in her, as she listens in silence. In Essen, Germany, she rejects the love of a tender journalist (Helmut Griem). On her way to Brussels to visit her mother (Lea Massari), Anna accidentally encounters an old family friend, Ida (Magali Noël), while changing trains at a Cologne station. It forces an uneasy reunion between the two women, as the unhappily married Ida boldly tells Anna to reconcile with her son and marry. In her hometown of Brussels, Anna goes out with her businessman ex-lover (Jean-Pierre Cassal) and returns alone to her mother's place. They converse, and she reveals her inner feelings for the first time in the film while lying innocently in bed with her mom and telling her she's in love with another woman. 

All the characters are dislocated figures in a bleak landscape, who seemingly have been battered by the past and perhaps lack confidence to face the future. The itinerant journey takes us to impersonal hotel rooms, cold railway stations and to chance meetings with newcomers and those Anna knew from the past. It's a sobering hypnotic study in modern relationships that has a bewildering pronouncement that is strangely erotic, cruel and terribly honest. The artist is viewed as the one person who could best see through this hazy state of affairs, but the artist is also trapped in a state of loneliness and isolation that is forced upon them by the prevailing conditions.

REVIEWED ON 7/24/2007        GRADE: B+

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"