Chantal Akerman's movies can be disconcerting: she is on the one hand a highly sensual filmmaker, with a great interest in textures and surfaces, and on the other hand, she can be highly conceptual. This combination can result in films which are enticingly seductive, or it can result in films which are abruptly alienating.
Of all her films, TOUTE UNE NUIT is one of the most seductive. Set during one night, it's a series of vignettes, some no more than a glimpse of a few seconds, of people at night. People sitting in bars near closing time. People sitting at home, waiting. People walking at night. The sense of anticipation, of yearning, becomes palpable.
Some vignettes are longer, but all these stories are fragmented: we're not given a real beginning, though we are given a few endings. There is no real dialogue: we just see a few gestures, a little action, but that's all.
People alone in a bar, then noticing each other. Will they make some sort of contact? A little girl packing her little suitcase: is she running away? Where? It's like we're given the bits and pieces of a larger narrative, but we have to decide what these bits and pieces mean. And then there are those encounters. Someone waiting alone in an apartment, when another person finally arrives. Two people running into each other on the street. All the meetings, often culminating in a kiss, seem to distill the most intense romantic desires.
We want these strangers to find a way not to be alone, and that desire on our part creates a tension which is tactile and erotic. Of course, Akerman has populated her night world with highly attractive people, so we are in a fantasy world of desire. TOUTE UNE NUIT is one of the most romantic movies that i've ever seen; it's funny that Akerman's most famous movie, JEANNE DIELMAN, is a long movie composed of very lengthy takes, while this movie is relatively short, with sharply edited, staccato little scenes. TOUTE UNE NUIT is almost the antithesis of JEANNE DIELMAN, but it shows Akerman in a romantic mood which is filled with yearning, desire and affection.