Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles
Jeanne Dielman (Delphine Seyrig) lives in a small apartment in Brussels. She is a middle-aged widow, mother, homemaker, and part-time prostitute whose existence is dominated by routine – the preparation of meals, the running of errands, visits from her clients, and evenings with her teenage son Sylvain (Jan Decorte) – until the cracks start to show.
In December, Chantal Akerman’s 1975 masterpiece was voted the Greatest Film of All Time by 1600+ film critics, academics and curators in Sight & Sound magazine’s prestigious once-a-decade poll. A singular blend of feminism, modernism, and the avant-garde whose hypnotic rhythms and rigorous attention to detail make for a riveting, unforgettable experience, Jeanne Dielman is a reminder that Hollywood’s mode of storytelling is only one among many. This is not a difficult film but it is different from what we are usually spoon-fed by the commercial mainstream. Akerman concentrates us on the daily routines that constitute Jeanne’s life, often shared in real time (though the movie compresses three days into three hours). Time becomes the film’s principal aesthetic and core experience. In this, it cemented and built on the work of Andy Warhol and transformed our understanding of what cinema can do.
Jeanne Dielman came in at #4 in Sight & Sound’s poll of film directors. In 2012, it came in at #35.
Sunday’s screening in our new PANTHEON series will feature free refreshments and a short introduction by Alla Gadassik, Associate Professor, Media History & Theory, Emily Carr University of Art + Design.
Who wants to see an avant-garde feminist masterpiece, other than feminists and the avant-garde? You should. Chantal Akerman’s 1975 movie is still massively important … Jeanne Dielman is immersion cinema, a brilliant example of maximal minimalism that fuses viewer with subject so profoundly, the marathon experience transcends simple spectatorship.
Stephen Garrett, Time Out New York
Severe yet majestic … Nothing can quite prepare the first-time viewer for the force of Ms. Akerman’s concentration, for the film’s overwhelming concreteness or the horrifying logic of its ending.
Dennis Lim, The New York Times
Jeanne Dielman is inescapably a woman’s film, consciously feminist in its turn to the avant garde. On the side of content, the film charts the breakdown of a bourgeois Belgian housewife, mother and part-time prostitute over the course of three days; on the side of form, it rigorously records her domestic routine in extended time and from a fixed camera position. In a film that, agonisingly, depicts women’s oppression, Akerman transforms cinema, itself so often an instrument of women’s oppression, into a liberating force.
Laura Mulvey, Sight & Sound
Delphine Seyrig, Jan Decorte
In French with English subtitles
The Greatest Film Ever Made – Sight & Sound magazine, 2022
Corinne Jénart, Evelyne Paul
Also in This Series
Orson Welles's debut was the most sophisticated movie to come out of the Hollywood studio system to that time, and opened up the creative possibilities of the narrative feature film for generations. For nearly 50 years it was "the best ever made".