Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Jeanne Dielman

Jeanne Deilman, 23 Quai de Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (Chantal Akerman, 1975) [10]

Long known for being extremely hard to see and extremely long, Jeanne Dielman is nothing short of a minimalist masterpiece. Derided by some as being 'watch Jeanne Dielman cook", it's the film's rigid structure that makes it work perfectly. That the film documents the often monotonous daily routine of the title character is a central theme of the feminist ideas that Akerman is addressing throughout the film. Jeanne (Delphine Seyrig) is a widowed mother living in Brussels, caring for her son and doing her daily chores while also serving men as a prostitute out of her apartment. As I said before, much of the film is static observation as Jeanne goes through her daily chores, from shopping to making dinner, to addressing her Johns, all in a highly structured manner. Akerman is addressing the stereotypical role of women in society, especially the idea that women should stay home and be caretakers. The genius of Seyrig's performance as Jeanne is that she goes through all these actions with a vaguely emotionless, detached presence. She becomes a prostitute for extra money but also for some excitement, which is another stereotype that Akerman brings up. That none of what Jeanne does is fulfilling is obvious but she keeps up her routine because she has nothing else to fill up her day. By the end of the film, fissures have started to show and there's a fantastic sequence of Jeanne quietly sitting alone in her apartment, her daily routine completely broken down and her left to contemplate. The only real scene of action takes place at the end, a desperate woman in need to get out of a desperate situation. What Jeanne Dielman and Akerman do so well is to use the structure of the film to critique women's' roles in society by showing and never really telling. It's obvious some will never get passed the "boring" nature of this. For someone like myself, who has waited years to see this, it was well worth it.

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