Part of The 100 Greatest Movies I’ve Ever Seen list.
Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles
dir. Chantal Akerman scr. Chantal Akerman cin. Babette Mangolte with Delphine Seyrig and Jan Dacorte
In 100 words: Jeanne Dielman is a true action movie: Akerman trains her camera on the moments of in-between of a woman’s life, which cinema rarely if ever focuses on. The protracted length of the film is crucial to its success—we see the titular heroine go through her routine with monotonous precision until she quietly but unmistakably falls off it. I love how Akerman never cuts away from an action, letting her audience feel the weight of time pass as she completes a task. Plus, the surprising drama she wrings out of the mundane is spectacular. Spare but majestic, enigmatic and memorable.
Other Movies for Context: Todd Haynes’ Safe comes the closest to evoking the power of this movie’s focus on domestic woman’s life. Akerman’s long scrupulous takes here are evoked in other works of art, including Apichatpong Weerasethakul, whose works like Cemetery of Splendour (2015) or Syndromes and a Century (2006) rely on long unbroken takes that value camera placement above all else. As for Akerman, I’ve seen her film Je Tu Il Elle (1974), which has the spareness that she’s known for but less of the drama that this one has.