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Chantal Akerman, feminist filmmaker, dies at 65

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Chantal Akerman, the Belgian director known as a pioneer in feminist and experimental filmmaking, died Monday in Paris at age 65.

Nicola Mazzanti, director of the Royal Belgian Film Archive, confirmed the news to EW.

“It is a very sad day for those close to her and for all lovers of true cinema,” Mazzanti said. “We are devastated by the news.”

Born in Brussels to Polish Holocaust survivors, Akerman was inspired to make films after seeing Jean-Luc Godard’s 1965 avant-garde romantic drama Pierrot le Fou. She made her first film, the black-and-white short “Saute Ma Ville” (“Blow Up My City”) at 18 after dropping out of film school.

Seven years later came her breakthrough, Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles. The three-hour, 20-minute film chronicles the daily routine of a widowed housewife as she cooks, cleans, and receives clients who pays her for sex, ultimately building to a shocking climax.

Throughout her more than 40 films, Akerman often explored themes of angst, isolation, and violence, often seen through the lens of the inner lives of women. Her other films include News From Home (1977), A Whole Night (1982), From the East (1993), A Couch in New York (1996), The Captive (2000), and Almayer’s Folly (2011).

Akerman’s latest film, No Home Movie, is currently showing at the New York Film Festival.

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