Born in Brussels, Chantal Akerman is a filmmaker whose work gives new meaning to the term "independent film." An Akerman film is an exercise in pure independence, pure creativity, and pure art. The viewer must give him- or herself over completely to the experience of the film, to watch with open eyes and an open mind. To label Akerman's work "minimalist" or "structuralist" or "feminist" is to miss most of what she is about. Strong themes in her films include women at work and at home, women's relationships to men, women, and children, food, love, sex, romance, art, and storytelling. Each Akerman film is a world unto itself and demands to be explored on its own terms.
Legend has it that Akerman's passion for film was inflamed when, at the age of 15, she wandered into a Brussels movie theatre and saw Jean-Luc Godard's landmark film, Pierrot le Fou. Soon after, she enrolled in the Belgian film school, INSAS, but quit after two years, finding herself understandably more interested in making films than in sitting in a classroom. Legend further has it that she saved money from clerical and waitressing jobs to make her first short film, Saute ma ville (1968), a Chaplinesque tragicomedy.
In 1972, Akerman moved to New York, where she became acquainted with avant-garde filmmakers, most notably Michael Snow. Her first two features, Hotel Monterey (1972) and Je Tu Il Elle (1974), were followed by the masterful 200-minute Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (1975), which stars the astonishing Delphine Seyrig as a Brussels widow who becomes unglued when the regimented life she leads with her son begins to unravel. In 1968, Akerman returned to New York and made News from Home, followed two years later by Les rendez-vous d'Anna, and in 1982, Toute une nuit.
In 1983 Akerman completed Les années 80, a study for the wild and wacky Parisian shopping mall musical, Window Shopping, which is a nice companion piece to -- if not the inspiration for -- Woody Allen's 1996 hit Everyone Says I Love You. In between her theatrical works, Akerman has made numerous projects for French television, among them a film on Pina Bausch and two films with classical pianist Alfred Brendel.
Akerman's films of the '90s include: Nuit et jour (1991); D'Est (1993); Portrait d'une jeune fille de la fin des années 60 à Bruxelles (1993); and A Couch in New York (1996).
Chantal Akerman lives in Paris, France.