Impressions of … Je Tu Il Elle (Chantal Akerman)

Chantal Akerman’s first feature-length film

this is going to be difficult: explaining why I liked this film, perhaps I should just say I suspect some of the images, no, some of the image-sequences will stay with me, while those from more dramatic and entertaining films fade away

but why? the cinematography wasn’t so remarkable?
no, it wasn’t, not at all, although the long shot of the girl hitchhiking in the rain near a motorway junction was quite beautiful –

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but it’s not about ‘cinematography’ or ‘drama’, these are distractions …

so what is about then?
I think it has something to do with curiosity, simplicity, or perhaps deprivation, not being given enough information and yet seeing all you need to see …

Yep, told you it would be difficult (and I’m not going to hide behind art-speak or academic-idioms)

the film is in three parts: a young woman (played by the director) in self-imposed isolation in a sparsely furnished room, the young woman hitches a lift from a hunky young trucker, the young woman visits her ex-lover

there is practically no dramatic action in the first two parts, the young woman is alone in a room, she writes a letter, sustains herself with sugar from a paper bag, she spills the sugar, at one point somebody walks passed the window, in the second part, she listens to the trucker monologuing about his libido, they watch a thriller in a cafe, she gives him a handjob, he takes her to a bar, she watches him shave –

I loved that shot: she slides into the corner of the bathroom, leans against the mirror, and gazes up at him (she’s not a tall woman), but her expression, which we see as much in the mirror as directly, is equivocal, calm, detached, not adoring, in fact, she looks tired, slightly bored, but also fascinated as if this masculinity were something she was not familiar with –

I realized this shortly afterwards, when she arrives at her ex-lovers place, because her ex-lover is a woman, the whole of that second part was a transient encounter with masculinity, and what was weird for me, as a man, was to share her point of view, I should have been the subject, looking into the mirror, shaving, not watching another man grooming himself, I envied his casual sexual encounters, I couldn’t believe his luck when she gave him the handjob (not show, by the way), which is probably why I was relieved to discover this wasn’t where her real interests lay

there was more drama in the last part: her ex told her she would not let her stay and the girl immediately made for the exit – a manipulative character, the self-imposed isolation at the beginning was part of a similar strategy no doubt – but her lover followed and the girl loitered by the lift until she came up with another tactic: she was hungry, her lover could not deny her and from there it was a few short steps to the bed –

and one of the most remarkable sex scenes ever filmed, because it wasn’t really a sex scene, it wasn’t about sex, but emotion, the two lay naked in each others arms, all buttocks and limbs in black and white, like a classical sculpture, they held each other, stroked and wrestled, the scene lasted almost ten minutes, but they hardly did anything I would call a sex act, yet it was like utterly convincing and fascinating, yes, fascinating, in the same way the girl was fascinated by the trucker, and perhaps like her I was also slightly bored because I wasn’t in the least aroused by this sight, fascinated but not aroused, a witness to something I did not really understand

Je-tu-il-elle

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