Performance + Q&A

Featuring cellist Sonia Wieder-Atherton

Post-Show Q&A: Sonia Wieder-Atherton and actor Stanislas Merhar in conversation with film critic Nicholas Elliott

Saturday, March 7, 2020
FIAF Florence Gould Hall

Melding live music with Chantal Akerman’s written words and her short film “Blow Up My City” (“Saute ma ville“), cellist Sonia Wieder-Atherton creates a touching ode to her long-time collaborator and companion.

I wanted to play along with her, her every move, her silences, her dancing at once burlesque and deadly serious, her anxiety as she is humming little tunes,” explains Wieder-Atherton.

Setting musical works by Bartók, Janáček, Prokofiev, and Wieder-Atherton in dialogue with the film and text, the show mingles the words, images, and notes to create a unique arrangement with each performance.

60 minutes

  • About Sonia Wieder-Atherton
    • Sonia Wieder-Atherton has treated music as a laboratory, constantly exploring and experiments across genres and repertoires. For her, playing Bach or Beethoven requires the same inquiry and exercise as playing Jewish songs or those of Nina Simone, Born in San Francisco to a mother of Romanian origin and an American father, she grew up in New York and later Paris, where she studied at the Conservatoire National Supérieur with Maurice Gendron. At the age of 19 she crossed the Iron Curtain to live in Moscow and study with Natalia Shakhovskaya at the Tchaikovsky Conservatory. Six years later, she was a laureate at the 1986 Rostropovich Competition in Paris. Wieder-Atherton has championed contemporary composers including Pascal Dusapin, Georges Aperghis, and Wolfgang Rihm, who have written works for her. She has performed as a soloist with the Paris Orchestra, French National Orchestra, Belgian National Orchestra, Liège Philharmonic, Israel Philharmonia, Gulbenkian Orchestra (Lisbon), the Philharmonic Orchestra of Luxembourg, the NDR Orchestra (Hanover), and many others. Additionally she has recorded and performed regularly with musicians like Imogen Cooper and Raphaël Oleg. She has conceived of cross-genre performances such as From the East in Music, incorporating footage from Chantal Akerman’s film D’Est, and projects with Charlotte Rampling and Fanny Ardant. In 2014, she released Little Girl Blue, a recording conceived like a letter to Nina Simone. In 2011 she was one of three artists awarded by the Fondation Renée-et-Léonce Bernheim and she was named a Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters in 2015.

  • About Stanislas Merhar
    • A close collaborator of Chantal Akerman, Stanislas Merhar starred in her films The Captive (2000) and Almayer’s Folly (2011). Merhar was discovered by Dominique Besnehard in 1996 during an open casting call. Though he had no prior acting experience, he was chosen by Anne Fontaine to play Loïc in Dry Cleaning (1997), a role that earned him the following year’s César Award for Most Promising Actor and launched his career. He appeared in Jean-Claude Brisseau’s Workers for the Good Lord (2000), Manoel de Oliveira’s The Letter (1999), and Benoit Jacquot’s Adolphe (2002). He made his stage debut in 2007 in Florian Zeller’s L’Autre and went on to appear in Amanda Sthers’s Le Lien, which ran in Paris and was featured at the Avignon Festival. In 2015, he starred in Philippe Garrel’s In the Shadow of Women. Merhar has also appeared in a number of arthouse films and television programs. In 2008, he published his memoir Petits Poisons (Fayard), a bittersweet evocation of his late father. In 2012, he was appointed a Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by Frédéric Mitterand.

  • About Nicholas Elliott
    • Nicholas Elliott is a programmer for the Locarno Film Festival and the long-time American correspondent for Cahiers du Cinéma in New York. His writing on Chantal Akerman has appeared in Cahiers du Cinéma, BOMB, and the 2014 collective monograph “Chantal Akerman” published by Bande(s) à part/Magic Cinéma. In 2016, he accompanied a retrospective of Chantal Akerman’s films to Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto, presenting selected works in the context of events organized by Cahiers du Cinéma and the French Institute in Japan. His writing on film has also appeared in Film Comment, The Criterion Collection, and collective volumes on Philippe Garrel and Ryusuke Hamaguchi. Photo © Michela Di Savino