Performance, rewriting, identity. Chantal Akerman's postmodern cinema.

Arti e Comunicazione

Veronica Pravadelli

This study considers Akerman's cinema as the product of the convergence between different cultural and filmmaking traditions as well as epistemological and aesthetic investigations. The broad contours are mapped around key issues of postmodern aesthetics: the notion of performance, the concept of vision and hearing as sensory/phenomenological experiences (rather than cognitive) and the practice of "rewriting" previous texts.

In order to place Akerman's cinema in the history of film aesthetics, the discourse on the postmodern is matched by a consideration of the different filmmaking traditions that have influenced her work, either consciously or unconsciously: Early cinema, Structural and Minimal cinema, French New Wave, different documentary traditions as well as genre forms, such as melodrama and comedy.

Akerman's involvement with various cinematic traditions testifies to her ongoing interest in experimenting with the linguistic possibilities of the medium. Yet, notwithstanding the variety of filmic forms she "borrows" from, the "thematic core" of her cinema remains constant, since female identity and desire are Akerman's relentless concerns. In this domain, and also considering 1970s and 1980s criticism, Performance, Rewriting, Identity tries to reassess Akerman's relationship to feminism. Finally, the filmmaker's increasing interest in exploring her Jewish cultural roots requires the incorporation of ethnicity among the "pertinent categories" shaping identity. The inscription of Jewish culture is also tested on a formal level. This study argues that the oral dimension of Akerman's cinema should be seen in the context of the Jewish taboo on visual representation. In analysing Akerman's take on Jewish culture and identity, this book brings to the fore previously neglected aspects of her cinema.