From the East

From the East ★★★★

- Akerman shoots in a way that at first can feel removed or distant, but once it settles in you get a real sense of the subjectivity and the specific perspective she's trying to offer the viewer. Once you're lulled into its hypnotic rhythm, you begin to pick things out for yourself and really engage with what's on screen. And if your timing is right, you might just catch Akerman's characters staring (or yelling, or waving) right back through the barrel of the camera, as it unabashedly drifts down the aisle of an endless train terminal, or as it floats past the crowds waiting at a bus stop in the snow. By the end, I'm completely drawn into the view of this world from her camera. These connections with the people on camera feel very personal but also very fleeting. It's pointillism right? Like if I step back, all these little memories together form an impression of that time and that place. Or maybe I just haven't seen enough people in the past 9 months and I've watched Sunday in the Park with George too many times.

- This is my fourth Akerman documentary and I've been trying to wrap my head around what exactly it is about From the East and News from Home that works so well for me and yet doesn't seem to translate as well to South and One Day Pina Asked. I think it just comes down to the former two being films that are really about the director's connection to the images. The latter two are just more conventional in the sense that things need to be explained and people need to be interviewed. Which is fine, but it doesn't play as well into this particular style.

- After seeing From the East, I do think News from Home benefits from the voice-overs that tie the film together. Those letters give it an emotional core (backdrop?) that East lacks. I mean, I understand that the scales and the settings and the everything about the two films are different, but News from Home really did hit different.

- So much of this film lacks any kind of continuity from one shot to the next. But then that one lady walks over to her record player to play some music, and the next shot was the same person sitting in the kitchen cutting some sausage (kolbasa?) and putting it on some bread for dinner. Thrilling. Cinema! I wish that shot was even longer, I felt like I was really settling into that kitchen. Show us more! Like that meatloaf in Jeanne Dielman! Now I'm hungry.

- During its runtime, I couldn't help but wonder where (and if) this kind of film could be made now. You certainly couldn't make this in a setting where everyone minds their own business, indifferent to the camera (but also you wouldn't do this with a prominent 16mm camera in 2020). On the other hand if the filmmaker sticks out like a sore thumb and draws the attention of too many passersby and onlookers, you risk disrupting the distance that's so crucial to the form. I guess what I'm saying is, don't try this at home? Or rather, it won't really work if you do.

- It's neat, I like it.