12 October, 2015

Dear Chantal,

Like so many others, I was shocked to hear of your suicide. In a narcissistic fantasy I imagine I might have helped to avert it, just as I may have been instrumental many years ago when a former student called me to say he was contemplating it and I talked to him for half an hour and told him he didn’t have to take such a drastic step and that I had actually attempted it once and was very thankful that I hadn’t been successful. But I wasn’t in a position to offer you such help. I had completely lost touch with you even though, as I was to learn, you periodically spent time in New York. I think the last time I saw you was around 1984 when you came to my loft on Franklin Street. I was editing The Man Who Envied Women on a Steenbeck, and I showed you a section I was working on. You made no bones about voicing your preference for this take over that take. “No, no, not that one!” You had no use for even a trace of sentimentality.

Fuelled by the second wave of feminism and Structuralist filmmakers, we entered the maelstrom of 16mm experimental features at about the same time. Lives of Performers and Hotel Monterey both came out in 1972 and both had been shot by Babette Mangolte. I think your work was always more polished and rigorous than mine. But now that hardly matters. I grieve for the loss of you and your productivity. The exact circumstances that drove you to put an end to your life and ongoing artistry will remain a mystery to me, and I may risk presumption in saying that I am familiar with what I imagine were the depths of your despair. If only you could be consoled by the certainty that your films will survive.

In sorrow, Yvonne

About The Author

Dancer, choreographer, filmmaker, and writer Yvonne Rainer was a leading figure of New York’s Judson Dance theatre movement in the 1960s, then embraced avant-garde cinema in the 1970s, and directed seven feature films including Lives of Performers (1972), Film About a Woman Who (1974), Kristina Talking Pictures (1976), Journeys from Berlin/1971 (1980), The Man Who Envied Women (1985), Privilege (1990) and MURDER and murder (1996). She returned to choreography in 2000. Retrospectives of her work have been organised by the Museum Ludwig in Cologne in 2012, the Getty Center in Los Angeles and the Galerie du Jeu de Paume in Paris in 2014.