Derik Badman's Journal

2020-02-09 15:45

Watched Chantal Akerman's first film Je Tu Il Elle and took some disjointed notes (from which this post is made). It's a slow movie, without a lot of camera movement, action, or, for long periods, dialogue. It's divided into three sections, and the first two have narration by the protagonist (played by Akerman). The narration sometimes precedes the visuals and sometimes recounts something we just saw, which can be oddly disorienting in the first section. At first I just thought she was narrating something we weren't going to see, but then what she narrated would happen after the narration stopped.

One review I read compared it to Stranger than Paradise, but I feel like Jarmisch's movie is much more explicitly humorous and also in the first third of Akerman's movie, the protagonist is by herself so there's not that interaction between the actors you get in the former.

I don't know that I've seen the camera move if I have it was only a very little.

Because it's in black and white it feels older than it is.

There are a number of scenes of really nothing happening: eating, writing, looking. Actions that would not normally be considered worth filming at length.

She goes out hitchhiking and is picked up by a trucker and I can't help but expect something awful to happen, though I'm not sure this is quite that type of movie.

Weirdly when she's with the trucker who picks her up, they watch TV and listen to the radio and it's in English, at one point it seems to be a Milwaukee Brewers baseball game. A little confused, maybe it takes place in America even though it's a French movie?

There was a brief snippet on the trucker's radio where the voice said something about air pollution and you realize this is almost 50 years ago, and we had so much time and squandered it.

There's a scene where the protagonist and the trucker are having a beer and smoking silently sometimes glancing at each other and you can tell they're thinking about whether they're going to have sex or not, weighing the decision, the chance of the feelings of the other person, and it's completely without any dialogue. There's natural sound in the background diagetic sound but they're not talking but you can tell they both seem a little trepidatious a little nervous a little unsure, it's amazingly expressive though in it's minimalism.

The last section has the protagonist reaching her destination (I assume), an apartment with a young woman (about the same as the protagonist) living in it. At first their relationship is unclear, she seems unhappy to see the protagonist and wants her to leave. But then she ends up giving her food, and then they have sex. Was this the character the narrator was writing to in the first part of the film? It's not clear. The sex scene itself is kind of comical in the way the two woman are rolling around almost as if they are fighting with each other, frantic wrestling. It seems neither realistic in the sense of how actual sex works nor realistic in the sense of how a movie would normally show such a scene. It was almost comical.

A strange movie, I'm not sure in the end that I enjoyed it much.