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One of the constants of Chantal Akerman's remarkable work is a powerful if “heavy” painterly style that practically precludes narrative flow even when she's telling stories. Even at her best, as in Jeanne Dielman and The Man With a Suitcase, the only kind of character development she seems able to articulate with conviction is a gradual descent into madness. But the relatively unneurotic Night and Day (1991) strikes me as her most successful work in years. Julie (Guilaine Londez), the heroine, makes love to Jack (Thomas Langmann) in their small flat by day and wanders through Paris at night while he drives a cab—until she meets Joseph (Francois Negret) and guiltlessly launches a secret nighttime affair with him. Akerman brings a lyricism to the material that makes it “sing” like a musical. Whether the camera is gracefully traversing Jack and Julie's flat or slowly retreating from Julie and Joseph across bustling traffic while he recounts the things he loves about Paris, Akerman seems to have discovered both a musical rhythm for her mise en scene and a deftness in integrating her score that eluded her in her literal musical Window Shopping. This movie isn't for everyone—no Akerman feature is—but if you care about her work you shouldn't miss it.

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