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Thursday, June 23, 2016

'No Home Movie' DVD: Mother of All Chantal Akerman Documentaries

No Home Movie
The June 7, 2016 DVD release of "No Home Movie" by the legendary late Belgian documentarian Chantal Akerman is one of the most "innovative and thought-provoking documentaries" to come from Icarus Films, which uses that standard when selecting films for its primary product line. This latest Akerman film to emerge from Icarus documents both the daily life and personal history of Akerman's Brussels-dwelling mother Natalia and the exceptional bond between that subject and Akerman.

"Home" is a great extension of the '70s-era Akerman film "News From Home" in which Akerman reads letters from her mother set against the scenery of Akerman's then New York City home. It relates as well to the Akerman documentary "Down There" in which the daily activity of a Tel Aviv-dwelling Akerman  includes telephone conversations with her mother.

The symbolism and other depth of "Home" is apparent to Akermanphiles but largely is beyond the scope of this site. Suffice it to say, the layers relate to different senses of home, the role of women in society, and the strength of the mother-daughter bond. This film showing an ailing Natalia in the period before her passing adds additional substance to the film.

The following YouTube clip of the NON-SUBTITLED French trailer for "Home" provides a good sense of the humor and the Akermanesque quality of the film even for folks who non parlez Francais.

In true Akerman style, she largely leaves the camera stationary and lets the action come to it. In this case, it involves setting up the camera in different rooms and at different angles in the apartment of Natalia and having her shuffle into view. This technique makes "Home" essentially a sequel to "There."

The frequent interaction between Akerman and Natalia provides most of the insight and entertainment in the film. Natalia asking Akerman about her cooking abilities and commenting on her dietary habits shows that mothers everywhere are the same.

These kitchen table talks additionally cover the experiences of the Jewish Natalia in WWII-era Belgium and her native Poland. Suffice it to say this time that she does not have an easy time of it.

Wonderful humor comes in the form of Natalia trying to use Skype to speak with Akerman while the latter first is in Oklahoma and then New York. This time, Akerman provides a Cliff Note in the form of telling Natalia that she is filming her using Skype to illustrate that even great distances and large oceans cannot break their bond.

Seeing an exhausting (and exhausted) Natalia make a HUGE deal about going on about a walk and not looking at all well adds a great deal to "Home." These scenes illustrate the intimate nature of the subject, remind adult children of elderly parents of the challenges of such relationships, and validate that growing old sucks.

The bonus material is booklet of what surely are insightful essays on Akernan generrally and "Home" specifically. Having been brought up properly by my late mother requires confessing to not having dome my homework regarding reading these analyses before preparing this review.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Home" is strongly encouraged to either email me or to connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.