Co-written (with Eric De Kuyper) and directed by Chantal Äkerman, Tomorrow We Move (Demain on déménage) is a lovely, life-affirming comedy that encompasses Parisian street and apartment scenes and a slip into the country, where, among other things, a woman gives birth. If ever a film has been sheer pleasure, this is it.
One of the Belgian-born filmmaker’s documentaries, D’Est (1993), is on my list of the ten best films of all time. Tomorrow We Move is fictional, although it is drawn from Äkerman’s life. Äkerman has said that the protagonist, Charlotte (Sylvie Testud, pitch-perfect), is based on herself.
For me, this film is Äkerman’s most wonderful nondocumentary. Indeed, it is the most brilliantly written, most visually imaginative, most beautifully directed and shot color comedy ever. It is also hilarious—and you won’t believe the comedic mileage that Äkerman gets from offscreen moaning as Charlotte goes about writing her commissioned pornographic novel as her mother’s pupils take their lessons on the piano in the cramped, chaotic lower level of the apartment.
The opening is a stunner: an expanse of subtly turbulent gray sky in which a grand piano erotically tumbles. We see only the piano, the hoisting rope, and the heavens. However, we hear heavy breathing from the ground—the sound of awe, it turns out, as Catherine, Charlotte’s mother, watches as the piano is lowered into her daughter’s apartment, into which she herself is moving.
Tomorrow We Move recalls Äkerman’s terrific New York documentary News from Home (1977), in which Äkerman’s mother pleads via letters for her daughter’s return to Brussels. Now, mother and daughter are reunited, but in Paris, Äkerman’s adopted residence. The film’s currents and undercurrents of restlessness and uprootedness are pressured by the Holocaust, to which the script—and a neighbor—refers. (Äkerman is Jewish.) The daughter-mother duet here is, in a sense, one fragment of an endless Jewish Diaspora.
This is a film about keeping upright, maintaining balance. The piano gets into the apartment safely, but Charlotte drops, and busts, the chandelier that was her father’s cherished possession. It is her father’s death that has occasioned her mother’s moving in.
Äkerman has made a zany, peerless comedy about irretrievable loss.
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