DENNIS SCHWARTZ 
IS THERE ANY GOOD 
IN SAYING 
EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?

 
NEWS FROM HOME (director/writer: Chantal Akerman; cinematographers: Babette Mangolte/Jim Asbell; editor: Francine Sandberg; cast: Chantal Akerman (Voice); Runtime: 86; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Alain Dahan; Criterion Collection; 1976-France-French with English subtitles)

 
"The stark images tell all."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz 

Experimental Belgium filmmaker Chantal Akerman's ("South"/"A Couch in New York"/"La Captive") early in her career documentary is filmed in the summer of 1976 on her extended stay in NYC. The DVD released by Criterion in their Eclipse Series 19 collection includes her following New York Films: La Chambre (1972, 11 minute short), Hotel Monterey (1972), News From Home, Je Tu Il Elle (1975) and Les Rendez-Vous D'Anna (1978). 

Akerman's chilling film is a disjointed look at New York's cityscapes that include its empty and crowded streets, vacant lots, its skyscrapers, storefronts and tenements, and its underground graffiti-ridden subway system. Letters from Akerman's bourgeois mother in Belgium are read aloud by the filmmaker off-screen, as mom pleads for more letters, tells her how much she's missed by everyone at home (laying a guilt-trip on the daughter to return home) and expresses concern about her daughter's financial and physical well-being. While the letters are read in an unemotional tone, the images of the city roll by.

It's a fascinating meditation on urban alienation and alienation from others and from the family. The stark images tell all.

REVIEWED ON 6/24/2010       GRADE: A-

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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