Another day, another untimely death in the vast constellation of onetime Peellaert collaborators. The artist and experimental filmmaker Chantal Akerman passed away on October 5th of an apparent suicide, at age 65.
Ms Akerman, like Peellaert a Belgian-born artist who had emigrated to Paris in her twenties and was greatly inspired by the New York art scene of the late 1960s, created a series of groundbreaking, slow-burning films delving deep into the feminine psyche, starting with the classic Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (1975) and its intimate exploration of the daily life of a lonely widowed housewife.
That film, along with several more released in the 1970s, marked the invention of a new cinematic vocabulary with its slow-burning depiction of time and its eerie capacity to convey a woman's inner life. It turned Akerman into a feminist icon and a cult figure of independent cinema. Over the years, she had remained an enduring inspiration to such maverick filmmakers as Gus Van Sant, Todd Haynes or Michael Haneke.
In 1978, almost three years into the making of the Las Vegas, The Big Room series, Guy Peellaert at the request of Akerman collaborated on Les Rendez-Vous d'Anna (The Meetings of Anna) by creating the film's poster, his first since 1976's Taxi Driver. Anna follows the restless wandering of a woman director (played by Aurore Clément) as she embarks on a promotional journey, and Peellaert used his signature painted photomontage technique to depict Clément standing in a train wagon, motionless and staring obliquely into the distance, lost in thought.
The original artwork, of which no picture remains, was thought to belong to Akerman herself, but the filmmaker in 2014 revealed that she had never owned it, and that the piece likely has been the property of the Seydoux family, which controls the Gaumont and Pathé studios.
Les Rendez-Vous d'Anna and Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles are available on DVD as part of the prestigious Criterion Collection : Chantal Akerman in the Seventies.