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The Way of the Termite: The Essay in Cinema

Tuesday, March 10, 2009
7:30 p.m. Je tu il elle
Chantal Akerman (France, 1974)

Archival Print

In her first feature, director Chantal Akerman plays the young protagonist in three episodes that are connected as a process or journey, perhaps out of youth into adulthood, with all the discomfort that that implies. We find our heroine compulsively eating from a bag of sugar, writing a letter and reading it aloud, rearranging furniture in her room and stripping it bare. She goes on the road and has an encounter with a young truck driver who regales her with stories of his life and its routine. Finally, she comes to the home of a woman she loves; there is a mood of estrangement, but the women choose to make love rather than talk about it. Systematically avoiding any close shots, Akerman leaves us, like her protagonist, effectively distanced from the intensity of these experiences. Conversation breaks in on a meditation on solitude only to underline the alienation.

• Written by Akerman. Photographed by Bénédicte Delesalle. With Akerman, Niels Arestrup, Claire Wauthion. (90 mins, In French with English subtitles, B&W, 35mm, From Cinematheque Royale, Belgium, permission Paradise Films)