Watched Aug 06, 2012
One of Chantal Akerman's more experimental, abstract works. It starts off slowly (and maintains this slow pace throughout its 90 minutes), but soon becomes utterly mesmerising.
The film consists of various shots of New York City. We see streets, underground subways, people... the entire thing feels deeply of the 70s (keep in mind these are the same streets and people Travis Bickle despised in Taxi Driver), and American culture.
However, over top of these images, Akerman reads aloud letters from her mother in Belgium, who constantly worries about Akerman being alone in New York and begs her to write as often as possible. Through letters crafted lovingly by her mother, Akerman reveals so much about her family, her loneliness, their struggles and her own personal life. At times it becomes surprisingly moving.
Some shots go on for a long time. Generally these are shots without dialogue in the background. Silent images of streets where the only noise is natural sound. Then Akerman's letters kick in again, drawing us back from this dreamy state of alienation to human reality and deep emotion.
Towards the end the quiet voice reading the letters (Akerman herself) is drowned out by the sound of cars and industrial noises, and so as to escape this hectic mess of loudness and insanity, the film concludes with a very long take on a ferry, as Akerman's camera very slowly moves further and further away from Manhattan, and we are finally granted an escape from the hell of the city. It's a beautiful, profound conclusion to a mesmerising experiment.