A beautiful insomniac's journey from Chantal Akerman. The narrative is La Ronde fractured, spun out of dozens of fragments of personal dramas not quite intertwining over a humid, languorous night in oppressively impersonal Brussels. A woman meets her lover in a bar while another couple looks on from a nearby table, separated until a tentative embrace breaks through the symmetry of the frame, a trio breaking up segues into another couple dancing around a jukebox in a deserted restaurant, another middle-aged couple decides to go out while a woman packs up her things and takes off while her husband sleeps, and so on into the dawn. Huddling actors and non-professionals (Aurore Clément is the most familiar face), Akerman grids out a panorama of aching city dwellers stepping in and out of apartments, hooking up or barely missing each other, a rendezvous kept and then broken, each and every affair marinated in its own flavor of heartbreak. Her Brussels is a democratically alienated center, with young and aged, straight and queer, local and immigrant soaking in the heat and suffering the mysteries of human interaction with delicate variations of an ongoing plaintive murmur ("Come with me. No? ... I don't think we still love each other ... Keep me from drinking. I am scared"). Akerman's framing and panning are as severe as in her previous films, yet the timbre of the sequences is lighter, more elastic, reflecting the ephemeral feel of the passing fancies she captures -- a notion expressed in the closing passage with sublime consequences for Alan Rudolph, Tsai Ming-liang and Claire Denis, Clément dreamily swaying with her lover through a reverse tracking-shot down a corridor while in the soundtrack their romantic Italian chanson battles it out with the disembodied honking of cars implacably ushering in the early morning, and reality. With Jean-Philippe Laroche, Tchéky Karyo, François Beukelaers, Catherine Graindorge, Nicole Colchat, Frank Aenderboom, Samy Szlingerbaum, Luk De Konink, and Natalia Akerman.
--- Fernando F. Croce