The Belgian avant-garde filmmaker Chantal Akerman, whose patient, personal reflections on the lives of women made her a leading figure of art house cinema, has died. She was 65.
Artemis Productions in Brussels, which worked with her, confirmed her death on Tuesday but released no other details. Police confirmed Ms. Akerman's death in Paris, but gave no details on the cause.
Belgium's minister of francophone culture, Joelle Milquet, lauded Ms. Akerman for films "often experimental and without concessions," adding that her work "will have its place in world cinema."
Her unexpected death reverberated across the film world. The Toronto International Film Festival in a statement called Ms. Akerman "one of the greatest filmmakers and artists of our time."
"Daring, original, uncompromising, and in all ways radical, Akerman revolutionized the history of cinema not only with her masterpiece Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du commerce, 1080 Bruxelles but also with the sustained urgency of her brilliance," the festival said. "Akerman created new formal languages and consistently expanded cinema's reach with her restless curiosity and willingness to wade into taboo subjects."
Often shooting in long, uninterrupted takes, Ms. Akerman – inspired as a teenager to be a filmmaker by Jean-Luc Godard – worked in fiction films, documentaries, video essays and video installations. But in myriad, sometimes abstract forms, her films were hailed for their bracing feminism and haunting intimacy.
Her landmark film, 1975's three-hour-plus Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du commerce, 1080 Bruxelles, depicted in real time the drab routines of a Belgian housewife forced into prostitution to make money.
"Jeanne Dielman is a film that created, overnight, a new way of making films, a new way of telling stories, a new way of telling time," said Nicola Mazzanti, the director of the Royal Belgian Film Archive. "There are filmmakers who are good, filmmakers who are great, filmmakers who are in film history. And then there are a few filmmakers who change film history."
Directors such as Todd Haynes, Sally Potter and Michael Haneke have credited Ms. Akerman as a major influence. J. Hoberman, a former film critic for The Village Voice, likened her to Mr. Godard and to the German director Rainer Werner Fassbinder, calling her "arguably the most important European director of her generation."
Last month, she premiered her latest film, No Home Movie, at the Locarno Film Festival. A video essay about her mother, Natalia (Nelly) Akerman, an Auschwitz survivor, the film is also playing at the New York Film Festival.
She filmed it largely in her mother's Brussels apartment, shooting their conversations together, and yielding a portrait of her mother's daily life, her mortality and her memory. Her mother died in 2014.
Memory was a common theme to Ms. Akerman's films, which included the 2000 Proust adaptation The Captive.
While her work was often inward-looking, she also made several travelogues, including From the East, filmed across the south in the United States.
She rarely brushed up against the mainstream, but did make 1996's A Couch in New York, starring William Hurt and Juliette Binoche as a pair who swap apartments in New York and France.
A retrospective of Ms. Akerman's work has been running at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London.
With files from The New York Times