In a lonely interior, a man and a woman nurse drinks at separate tables. They’re like solitary strangers inside an Edward Hopper bar or a Vincente Minnelli Technicolor café. It’s a rigidly locked-off tableaux vivant. The man stubbornly sips his beer, while the woman is acutely aware of his every gesture. Are they strangers or intimates? Music from a passing car pans right to left. It’s the moment just before a dance sequence ruptures this prosaic scene and the fireworks of choreography explode.
He finishes his drink, gets up to leave. Jump cut. Now they’re swaying; it becomes a slow dance to a Véronique Sanson song playing on the jukebox. They clutch each other in a clinging, desperate, slightly deranged dance: the bastard child of Leslie Caron and Pina Bausch. Four years later, in 1986, the performance will be appropriated by Jim Jarmusch for a scene in Down By Law: Roberto Benigni and Nicoletta Braschi dance in a kitchen while Tom Waits sips coffee.
I realize where Akerman has brought me. She reinvented something I instinctively understood but couldn’t name and turned it inside out. The scene’s burnt into my brain.
Main image: Chantal Akerman, Toute une nuit (All One Night) 1982, film still. Courtesy: © The Estate of Chantal Akerman and Marian Goodman Gallery, London, New York and Paris
Angelica Mesiti lives in Paris, France. In 2017, she has had solo exhibitions at Artspace, Sydney, Australia, and Anna Schwartz Gallery, Melbourne, Australia, amongst others. Her solo exhibition at Aarhus, Denmark, will run from 11 November to 17 December. Her survey show at the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, runs until March 2018 and she will have a solo exhibition at Artsonje Centre, Seoul, Korea, in 2018.
First published in Issue 6