After too many editorials penned in the shadow of the 2016 election, all suffused with a mix of nostalgia and dread, perhaps it’s time to change the lens. As a grumpy daughter, I used to complain that my anxious mother could always find the cloud around any silver lining. Consider this editorial, then, an attempt to break with such attitudes and appreciate the silver wherever it may be found. And since dire times can inspire great writing, Film Quarterly should have ample cause for celebration in future issues, too, as the news out of Washington DC shows no sign of turning any less dire—and, in fact, worsened with the Senate hearings in the fall and the confirmation of a certain Supreme Court justice (no, I will not include his name) in defiance of women’s testimonies and an unjust process grounded in brutalism and misogyny. The state of the country, the state of government, the state of cinema: these are not unrelated entities.
Chantal Akerman’s sound strategies are defining elements of a unique film language noted for effects that feel close to direct experience and seem to approximate the passing of real time. Drawing from a range of Akerman’s films, from Saute Ma Ville (1968) to No Home Movie (2015), five categories of sound that are of special interest in Akerman’s films are considered: walking, talking, singing (music), exploding, and silence. Local examples are analyzed to give a sense of how, within these five categories, Akerman cultivated an overall tactic of desynchron- ization – often separating layers of sound from one another within the soundtrack, and always working the soundtrack as a whole against the visual image track – to amplify effects of immediacy and temporal complexity, and to generate layers of meaning powerfully but indirectly.
A special dossier on Chantal Akerman with articles by dossier co-editor Ivone Margulies, Laura Mulvey, and an interview by B. Ruby Rich; plus the first English language translations of some of Akerman’s work, a post-mortem bibliography of writing on Akerman, a special video tribute to Akerman and the importance of sound in her films by Barbara McBane; a report from the goEAST film festival, and a rich slate of book reviews round out this “back to school” issue.
This eulogy was delivered by Rabbi Delphine Horvilleur at the funeral service of Chantal Akerman on October 13, 2015, at Père Lachaise cemetery. Thanks to Rabbi Horvilleur for permission to publish it here.