Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles

I have been meaning to see this 1975 film, I believe considered something of a Feminist classic, by Belgian filmmaker Chantal Akerman for a long time. The description, believe it or not, was irresistible to me: it's a 3 hour 20 minute film about a single mother who works as a prostitute, where most of the "action" consists of her daily routines. Meaning that the film treats us to extended, often single-take sequences of Jeanne cleaning, shopping, preparing meals, bathing, and so on.

Obviously, this is not a film for all tastes, but for those adventurous filmgoers out there, I would say its worth the time commitment. The first half, or so, painstakingly details Jeanne's seemingly obsessive daily routine; the second half shows small fissures opening up under her impeccable surface, culminating in... when, something rather major, but its not the kind of thing I would dream of spoiling, given how minimalist the film is.

I'm not sure if the film's style of leaving in all the mundane details of everyday life was an attempt at realism, but the effect is almost the opposite. Because of its extreme "banality" I was kind of hyper-aware of the fact that I was watching a film, and watching an actress perform all sorts of ordinary, boring tasks at great length. I don't mean that as a criticism, per se, but Jeanne never felt like a character to me, despite Akerman's detailed portrait of her life, so much as a film subject.

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