News from Home ★★★★½

This Chantal Akerman film combines the personal (letters from her mother) with the universal (mostly still shots of New York City) to truly memorable effect. It is at once sweeping and personal, a depiction of alienation between people and between the self and place. Akerman's minimalism pays off by rewarding the audience's focus, starting with repetitive shots of streets and alleyways, introducing new elements such as cars, people, and the subway to sketch in the details of her setting. Her compositions are startling and evocative, and part of the film's attraction is seeing how they evolve with movement over the course of the movie. It culminates in one of the best final shots of any film I've seen, a perfect summation of the film's content. This is one of those experimental films whose value comes mostly from the way it engages the audience's thoughts and attention, but it also provides a subtle and emotional story to back up Akerman's visual ingenuity. And by laying the details of her personal experiences and emotions so bare, she allows the audience to see their own lives reflected in her film.