»Saute ma ville« by Chantal Akerman

 Well, its Thursday, tonights movie night! Evening approximates… So here»Saute ma ville« (»Bomb Up My Town«) by Chantal Akerman.


 When I was 18 I lived in a world, where notions didnt exist, or merely existed intuitively or immediately. I only had the desire for playing football or computer games as soon as a school day was over, or just listening to music or watching TV. But there are other 18 year old boys and girls who, so it seems, never were teenagers, but took a straight leap from childhood into being a grown-up.

 Take for instance Chantal Akerman. When she was 18 she shot »Saute ma ville«, a short film of just 12 minutes. But those 12 minutes gave her a place under the grandees of the directors guild. For the fact is that »Saute ma ville« is said to be one of the central (short) works of the 20th century. And it is still be shown in film academies. Which means quite simply: It is a masterpiece!

 Gérard Courant says, that it is a bold film, almost megalomaniac. Not only because of its unconcerned breaking of traditional filming rules, but also because it is shot on 35 mm which is the working material of the “established” directors, but surely not for an 18 year old rookie.

 Janet Bergstrom describes the history of the film. After shooting it the film was stocked in a laboratory for two years, because Chantal Akerman didnt had the money to release it and because she was so unsure about its value. In 1970 the laboratory manager asked her to pick it up. So she asked him to watch it and give his opinion. That was how the stone started to roll. He was convinced of it, and he had connections…

 Akermans subsequent cinematic milestone was »Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles«. Other famous, more mainstream, movies of her are »Un divan à New York« (»A Couch in New York«) and »La captive« (»The Captive«) – I think, those are two interesting films, although I quite prefer »La captive«.

 Finally, let me spend some words on »Saute ma ville«. I am especially fascinated by the construction of sounds. You hear a girl singing and humming, but you dont see her. So it feels like, as if youre in her head. It sounds cheerfully, especially with the bouquet in her hands, although the building doesnt look quite inviting. However, I was expecting good things to come, not knowing – when seeing the film for the first time – that “saute ma ville” means “bomb up my town”. Whatever, the way the film continues made me feel secure. But then it starts: first unsettling actions, then really disturbing actions, subsequently sounds thrown into turmoil. What the fuck!? She seems to be going crazy. Isn’t she? Well, I can’t say. At last, the sound of gas streaming out. In the end a black screen, the explosion. Saute ma ville!?

7 responses to “»Saute ma ville« by Chantal Akerman

    • hi there, I’m surprised that you find something beautiful in this film. what is it?
      for me it started somehow funny and light, but soon turned out to be really disturbing; as you write.
      researching in the internet one finds oftentimes the interpretation that she wants to overcome traditional rules and create a room for something new. that film refers at least to women’s kitchen-life, desire for decoration, and so on; and maybe also to the art and techniques of film-making.

      • hello, sp. is it also weekend already where you are? it’s summer here and really, really hot, haha. 🙂

        it’s beautiful for many reasons. it looks and feels 70s, for one. for another, it seems to me like a critique on city-living (in a condo unit, right?) and modern-day life (the room is fully-furnished). it also takes a look at living alone (for most, condo living is like that), how limited and oppressive it could be (four-cornered with many drawers) – eating alone, reading the paper with no one to share opinions with and getting messy and cleaning up – alone.

        the movie didn’t show the bedroom part, right? she didn’t lay down for a moment. she didn’t watch a movie or listen to the radio. no leisure, just the companionship of a cat. and the tedium of cleaning, ahuh. ^^ there’s individual independence implied. and yet, it also shows the limits – the repetitiveness, the seeming futility of it all (nobody will know or care whether the place is clean or not) and the emptiness (nobody will bear witness to the goings-on).

        the woman looks beautiful and ordinary enough (she could be anybody). and yet, she’s different. something’s brewing inside her. she’s dangerous, therefore. the singing and the sounds portends a tragic end for a woman coming undone. the film, the series of snapshots, attempts to show her last-ditch effort (cleaning) to create and to make sense of it all. she’s able to clean it and succeeded in her creation. but that’s just it – creation within the bounds of a four-cornered wall doesn’t seem to amount to much.

        that scene showing her polishing her shoes and then her legs and then herself, vigorously, that was too intense, ‘no? it represents a strong desire to get out and to hurt the self. in the end, everything was restored back to normalcy – clean and in their proper places. including the woman (no longer untidy and dirtied). she was therefore defeated. there was no more for her to do but…

        that’s how i think of it, hehe. you, how do you interpret it, huh?! Cheers! 🙂

      • that’s an interesting interpretation you gave!! 🙂

        I have to admit that I didn’t really understood this short film. (yet I like it, because of it’s “techniques” to create the atmosphere the film has.) I was absolutely surprised by it’s outcome. I didn’t expect that. in the beginning she seems to be a lovely young woman, but then turns out to be rude and crazy. she’s inflamed with rage, at last she seems to calm down, but desperate(?). I’m going to watch the film later and read your interpretation once again. but at the moment I’m on several journeys.

        btw: here we have Spring. it’s typical April’s weather. as we like to say “April, April / Der macht was er will” (“April, April / it makes what it wills”) 😉 today it rained. but I like Spring’s and Summer’s rains. 🙂

  1. Hello There. I discovered your weblog using msn. This is a very smartly written article. I’ll be sure to bookmark it and come back to learn more of your helpful information. Thanks for the post. I’ll definitely comeback.

  2. hello, again, SP,

    ah, there were years when i used to see silent films – german and french mostly. several charlie chaplin movies, also… so, am somewhat familiar with films of that sort. they’re mind-boggling, ahaha. after watching them, one feels like going out of the room or the theater to catch some air. 😉

    oh, you have beautiful weather over there. here, everything is sunshiny bright. lovely actually, but the heat makes us sweat a lot, ahaha. Cheers! 🙂

    • hi there, I’m back from my journeys. I watched the film once again. and yes, it’s quite a comprehensible interpretation you gave! and how you connected some details is really convincing! I cannot add anything to it. 🙂

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