Je, Tu, Il, Elle (18*)

After the Wave: Young French Cinema in the 1970s

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Shot of woman looking at camera

Chantal Akerman’s stunning debut feature, made when she was just 23, introduces themes – desire, longing, intimacy and alienation – that would last an entire career. 

Akerman herself plays Julie, who we first find in her studio flat, alone and heart-broken, compulsively rearranging the furniture, binge-eating caster sugar, and writing fractured stream-of-consciousness notes chronicling her thoughts and feelings. In the next section, she hits the road, hitching a ride with a lorry driver (Niels Arestrup); in the third, she arrives at the flat of an ex-girlfriend.

Though Akerman cited Jean-Luc Godard’s Pierrot le fou as an early inspiration, we are worlds away here from the New Wave in terms of sensibility and animating principles. Formally, and in its performances, the film moves between raw verité and an austere minimalism; in its sexual frankness, too, the film belongs to the 1970s, with its greater permissiveness.

France/Belgium 1974 Dir Chantal Akerman 86 min Digital presentation

* Locally classified by the City of London Corporation

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