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All Critics (6)
| Fresh (6)
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Akerman must have had enormous confidence in herself to be so bold both aesthetically and sexually so early in her career.
Stark yet brimming with sensation
A masterpiece that would be the crowning achievement for many directors.
The film made her name on the film festival circuit, for the nudity and extended sex scene... as much as the focus and intensity of the eerily disconnected portrait.
... plays well as a sexual odyssey.
The 225-minute "Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles" is a legendary endurance test for film buffs, but "Je Tu Il Elle" is also quite a trial -- even though it lasts about a third as long. "Dielman" director Chantal Akerman's first feature has just three actors in the cast, including herself (her character is named Julie, so the story is not directly autobiographical). A single camera follows Julie in gritty black and white through a spell of creative and emotional frustration. At first, she idles around her apartment, obsessing over an epic letter while crudely eating powdered sugar out of a bag. This lengthy segment spans four weeks and is extremely hard to watch. The "action" becomes more bearable once she decides to hit the road. She catches a ride with a truck driver (the destination does not seem relevant), and they become more intimate along their journey. He offers a long monologue about his wife and children while Julie's hand stimulates him. Later, she ends up at the door of an ambivalent woman, who's presumably the target of the first section's troubled letter. If you've forced yourself to stick around this long, you're rewarded with a prolonged, erotic lesbian scene. Akerman's bravery about displaying her own flawed body could have influenced "Girls" creator Lena Dunham.
In "Je, Tu, Il, Elle," a young woman(Chantal Akerman, who also co-wrote and directed) spends her days in her tiny apartment rearranging the furniture, subsisting on a diet of sugar. She writes a letter and then reads it over and over. Time passes and eventually it is 28 days since she has been outside. For all we know, there could have been a zombie apocalypse in the meantime and this morose person could conceivably be the last human being left alive which is really depressing. She gets undressed, either putting on a show for the neighbors or inviting potential zombies to lunch. Eventually, she musters the energy to get dressed and leave, hitchhiking with a trucker(Niels Arestrup).
Okay, as pretentious as that sounds, what follows is worse. On the other hand, it does become clear what the woman's story is. In any case, "Je, Tu, Il, Elle" is an object lesson in that just using a stationary camera and pointing it in a random direction is not filmmaking by any means. The director has to capture something of interest to the viewer, or else his mind is going to wander and he is going to be very silly when he has to write the review. Luckily, Akerman's first feature does transcend some of her inexperience as a director, winning the day by the movie's confrontational attitude and sheer nerve.
Je: I am a man who wants to love a woman.
Tu: as in the second person who I'm responding to,and yet nothing is quite certain or as it was supposed to be...
Il: domineering,bipolar,strict,even truck-drivers get the blues!
Elle: fierce,emotional,witty,the artistic,carnal fulfillment for both sexes.
Argument: "Being a woman is a terribly difficult task since it consists principally in dealing with men" Joseph Conrad
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