A film directed by Chantal Akerman
Béatrice, a vibrant Parisian dancer, swaps apartments with Henry, an egoistic Manhattan psychoanalyst. Béatrice settles into Henry’s place with ease, while the doctor has difficulty adjusting to Béatrice’s bustling home, but the mismatch clearly indicates that the two are destined to be together.
“What a strange story this film. I wrote it because the actress Juliette Binoche asked me to prepare a comedy for her. As it happens, I started writing the script when my father was very ill and on the verge of death. As if I could only get out of that pain by writing something funny and light. Most Jewish jokes are born out of unbearable pain.” Belgian film director, screenwriter and artist Chantal Akerman (1950-2015) thus explained the origins of “Un divan à New York” (A Couch in New York). One of the models of this unusual romantic comedy is Ernst Lubitsch’s cinema, but, according to Variety, “this lifeless, mostly studio-shot confection of amour and analysis rarely puts a foot right”. The film didn’t receive a great feedback from the critics and the public as Akerman, and the two main actors, Juliette Binoche and William Hurt, were considered unfit to handle both the comedic and romantic aspects of the film. Akerman has since criticized her actors for not helping her promote the movie, after early mixed reception and distribution problems.
Chantal Akerman’s artistic career was intertwined with the feminist movement, both for the themes represented and for the modes of expression that characterized her works from her first feature film, “Hotel Monterey” (1972) to the last one “No Home Movie” (2015). From the very beginning her cinema was demanding, essential and intensely political. She is a unique figure among the filmmakers of his generation. She has made a rigorous and coherent journey and, through the choice of the framing, the plan-sequence, the look on the physicality and on the bodies staged, the treatment of filmic time, he has contributed to draw the map of a new expressive language. Akerman’s most significant film, “Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles”, 1975 is was defined by The New York Times as the “first masterpiece of the feminine in the history of the cinema”. The film makes a hypnotic, real-time study of a middle-aged widow’s stifling routine of domestic chores and prostitution.