Keeping Score: News From Home (1977)


This is Keeping Score. Every other week, I recommend a movie and a playlist that riffs on the mood and themes from the movie. Sort of like an unofficial score.

With the start of the school year, I moved into an apartment with a balcony. My morning attention is now dedicated to watching people go by on bikes, on foot, in cars, on scooters. It’s usually quiet, with some buses hissing and garbage trucks making their morning sounds. It all reminds me of News From Home (1977). 

Chantal Akerman’s 1977 experimental documentary News From Home follows lingering shots of New York as Akerman reads letters she received from her mother while living in the city from 1971-1973. The scenes include street corners, shops, and subway stops–we watch as they fill and empty with people. Inquiring about her health, her clothes, and updating her about the happenings in her former home in Brussels, the letters from her mother offer a second narrative to the visual space Akerman shows us. A sort of meditation on relationships, space, and the emotions we feel in between. 

The playlist I made this week gets at the pace Akerman sets throughout News From Home. The three-song playlist is minutes long. Starting with “Movement 8,” a collaboration between saxophonist Pharoh Sanders and producer Turning Point, we start with an exercise in attention. It’s a masterpiece. In a 10:54 minute lull of minimalist organ music, Kali Malone moves the playlist towards some of the lonelier moments News From Home lets us feel with the track “Spectacle of Ritual.” 

The playlist closes with “dlp 4” by William Basinksi from the Disintegration Loop Series. Braninski recorded sounds from his environment on cassette tape, allowing the tape to disintegrate in successive recordings. In the fourth loop, the decaying of the tapes towards the end of the piece causes cuts in the music. Attention and energy begins to fade. 

In a documentary about her imagination, Akerman mused, “I never know what I will do. I go there with no plan. In a way it’s terrifying…It’s frightening because you don’t know what is going to happen. You have to be attentive to yourself…You have to be totally open like a sponge.” Here’s to watching people on the streets and being sponges.

Click here for: Katherine’s Playlist

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