Let’s undo the movies

By MICHAEL BRODEUR  |  April 30, 2008

Of the five works on view at the List, Femmes d’Anvers en novembre|Women of Antwerp in November — created specifically for the show — offers the clearest crossroads of Akerman’s dueling formal penchants. Five screens arranged horizontally (in what comes off like a long panoramic landscape) display silent vignettes of women smoking — on benches, outside buildings, in rain, in pairs, alone, in tears. One by one, they hint at a story that we’re forced to enter cold and exit even colder. Taken together, they suggest a more timeless narrative, one that finds the image of women smoking exhausted of its filmic elegance and effortlessly conveying darker themes: despondence, anxiety, rejection, repetition. Show co-curator Terrie Sultan calls it “damaged romanticism.” On the facing wall is a black-and-white projection of a woman smoking, with each curlicue of smoke that leaks from her lips serving as a little example of the time that Akerman so deftly plays with, with the slightest variations making each repetition different from the next. A patient enough observer might discover hope therein.

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