The Criterion Voyages (Spine #1203): Chantal Akerman Masterpieces: 1968-1978 -- The Influential Filmmaker's Early Works Memorialized in a Great Box Set
By Sean Boelman
Chantal Akerman is considered by many to be among the most influential filmmakers of all time, with an indelible mark on the avant-garde filmmaking movement and feminist cinema at large. With many of the most iconic filmmakers of all time recently getting box sets via Criterion, it’s Akerman’s addition to this canon in Chantal Akerman Masterpieces, 1968-1978 feels long overdue.
Akerman is known for her incredibly observational style and feminist themes, and both of those hallmarks are evident in this early period of the filmmaker’s work. While the point of watching many filmmakers’ early work is to see how their style develops, Akerman proves an interesting case, as she hits the ground running confidently out of the gate.
The biggest reason to pick up this collection is the ability to own some of Akerman’s more rarely-seen work, including her early mid-length film Le 15/8 and the short L’Enfant Aimé, Ou Je Joute À Être Une Femme Mariée. For these movies, this is not just cinephile’s first opportunity to own them on physical media, but also likely their first opportunity to see them at all.
Le 15/8 stands out in particular as worth the time of cinephiles wanting to explore Akerman’s filmography in more depth. In many ways, this portrait of a Finnish expat opening up about her anxieties to Akerman’s camera feels like a spiritual predecessor to Akerman’s signature work, the beloved experimental feature Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (which is also in this set.)
In fact, Jeanne Dielman is the only film in this set that was previously available through the Criterion Collection, which is awfully surprising considering how much of a following Akerman has within the cinephile community. Even some of the more well-known movies in the box, including Je Tu Il Elle and News From Home, are new additions to the fray.
The other films included in the set are short films Saute Ma Ville and La Chambre, and the features Hotel Monterrey and News From Home. Part of what makes Akerman’s filmography so interesting is that she pivoted so freely between narrative and documentary filmmaking, and this box set reflects that variety.
As for bonus features, the box set contains an absolute wealth of riches. The crown jewels are the various early works we get to see of Akerman’s, including some film school tests and an unfinished movie of hers from 1973. There’s also a new visual essay, as well as a variety of other audiovisual content to enjoy.
Although many of the films in the Chantal Akerman Masterpieces, 1969-1978 box set have already been available on the Criterion Channel for streaming, this is the first time that nearly all of them have been available for cinephiles on physical media through the collection. That alone makes it worth a purchase for any cinephile.
Chantal Akerman Masterpieces, 1968-1978 is now available via the Criterion Collection.
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