News from Home

News from Home ★★★★½

Perhaps slow cinema hit differently in 1976 than it does today, but in the world of 2021, it seems to carry with it an imperative, not merely to slow down, but also to observe and to reflect, to create space not only to feel, but also not to feel. In a media-saturated world where every pull-to-refresh mechanism offers the next hit, where every streaming service automatically delivers to you the next thing, how unburdening it is to be given time to look, and to consider.

News from Home creates that space, gives that time, but does so though its own context, through the lens of Akerman and the letters she received from her mother while living there. It's a biographical context that turns the film's creation-of-space and gift-of-time into its own kind of expression of yearning. The New York cityscapes that comprise the film seem to drown out the muted voiceover peppered throughout (Akerman herself reading her mother's words), sometimes literally, sonically, but also often visually, as if there's so much to take in you can't help but lose focus of the voice continuing to interject, sometimes suffocatingly, in the background.

And then there are those moments when we are presented the city without any concurrent voiceover at all. At times—most notably in the long-take drive up Tenth Avenue—those moments come as an expression of relief, of a freedom made possible by the all-consuming enthrallment of the City in the seventies. At other times—as in the film's final shot—it comes as an expression of longing, as the camera lingers, observing a city that is increasingly framed by the camera, coming into view even as it comes out of view, seemingly adrift, surely remote.

News from Home is romantic, but it is never unrealistic. New York is unmistakably the New York of the seventies, but even in the grainy film stock with which she shoots, each shot carries with it an affective charge, an emotional perspective of the artist's. It's what Akerman seems to do so well, at least in this and in Jeanne Dielman: activate stillness.

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