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I'm Hungry, I'm Cold

Chantal Akerman, 1984

Two ravenous young women wander the streets of Paris in continual forage, looking to remedy their destitution. A borrowed apartment offers them rest. A diner, some bread and cigarettes. Together they visualise the hazy ritual of consumption, falling in and out of sync with every mouthful.

I’m hungry, I’m cold. A signature of Akerman’s, the women’s dialogue seems dissonant. Their repetitive back-and-forth, laden with commentary on their hunger and fatigue, appears to be an unnatural mode of speech—a conversation to oneself, a confession under one’s breath. This is merely a facade. It is precisely the circularity of their dialogue that reveals the women’s oneness, a unity made visible as they kiss and huddle under shelter. In reflective proximity, they pace through their surroundings sutured by an invisible thread. Their romantic desires thrum between them; their hungry words scale the sides of cars and buildings.

Perhaps referential to Chytilová’s hedonistic Daisies, the women coquettishly serenade a crowded restaurant. Some men are tempted by this display, or rather they pity the poverty that sidles beneath its exhibition. They buy the women dinner. Off-screen, the women accept invitation to stay with one of the men. There, one of the women loses her virginity; the other fries eggs. Respective acquisition of sex and food signifies the women’s only division, though neither satisfies. Their separation attracts little more than nugatory transactions with passing strangers. At least together there’s empathy, their emotions are split down the middle. They’re easier to swallow.

Arm in arm, as if spiritually enlaced, the women leave the apartment and wander onward into the dark. All they need is each other, at least for tonight. Akerman’s experiential camera hangs back on this idea, resisting finality. Emptiness fills the frame. Perhaps nothingness begets possibility. I want to fall in love—Me too, come on.


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