News from Home(CA Retro)
Over long takes of streets, shops and subway stations in New York, where she lived on and off as a self-styled “vagabond” from 1971 to 1973, Chantal Akerman reads letters her worried mother Natalia wrote her during that spell. News from Home seems simple, but it’s actually the most sophisticated, multi-layered and uncategorisable piece in Akerman’s oeuvre. Is it a meditative documentary about a pre-gentification American urban canyon? A detached audio-visual essay about a young European artist’s alienation in the so-called New World? Or maybe an autobiographical ode about Akerman’s long-distance emotional tug of war with N Natalia, whose words – a mix of a mother’s worry for her prodigal daughter in an exotic land, and her reports of her own mundane routines at home in Brussels – rise and fall, out of sync, amidst the symphony of city sounds on the soundtrack? News from Home is all of this at once, and open-ended enough for more of the viewer’s interpretation: radiating melancholy and masterful technique at every shot, Akerman’s 1976 piece – now available in a majestic restoration – remains an experimental and emotive tour de force.