Belgian director Chantal Akerman has died at the age of 65, with several sources reporting the death as a suicide. Akerman is best known for her 1975 film Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles, a three-hour look at the daily routine of a Belgian housewife starring Delphine Seyrig. It’s a film known equally for its formal rigor — with long shots dedicated to the mundane tasks of keeping up a house — and shocking material, particularly its ending.
Akerman’s career extended beyond Jeanne Dielman, however. Inspired to become a filmmaker by watching the films of Jean-Luc Godard as a teen, she pursued her career first in Belgium, then in America, where she made early efforts like Hotel Monterey, Hanging Out in Yonkers, and News From Home, all cited as time capsules of the 1970s that look at America through an outsider’s eye. An actress and a theorist, Akerman cast herself as the star of her first feature Je Tu Il Elle, which she made before Jeanne Dielman, but which saw release after it.
Akerman worked steadily in the decades following the 1970s, as well. Her latest, No Home Movie, will soon play this year’s New York Film Festival. It may be the last of its kind, but Akerman’s influence, however, will continue in movies that force viewers to pay attention by lingering, holding, and demanding they don’t look away.