Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles

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Jeanne Dielman, 23, Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles
Directed by Chantal Akerman
Produced by Corinne Jénart
Evelyne Paul
Written by Chantal Akerman
Starring Delphine Seyrig
Jan Decorte
Jacques Doniol-Valcroze
Cinematography Babette Mangolte
Edited by Patricia Canino
Distributed by The Criterion Collection (USA DVD)
Janus Films (USA)
Release date(s)
  • 14 May 1975 (1975-05-14)
Running time 201 min
Country Belgium
France
Language French
Budget $120,000

Jeanne Dielman, 23, Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (French pronunciation: ​[ʒɔ̃ dilmɑ̃ vɛ̃ tʁwa ke dy kɔmeʁs mil katʁəvɛ̃ bʁysɛl], "Jeanne Dielman, 23 Commerce Quay, 1080 Brussels") is a 1975 film by Belgian filmmaker Chantal Akerman.

Upon the film's release, The New York Times called Jeanne Dielman the "first masterpiece of the feminine in the history of the cinema". Chantal Akerman scholar Ivone Margulies says the picture is a filmic paradigm for uniting feminism and anti-illusionism.[citation needed] The film was named the 19th-greatest film of the 20th century by The Village Voice.[1]

Plot[edit]

Jeanne Dielman examines a single mother's regimented schedule of cooking, cleaning and mothering over three days. The mother, Jeanne Dielman (whose name is only derived from the title and from a letter she reads to her son), prostitutes herself to a male client daily for her and her son's subsistence. Like her other activities, Jeanne's prostitution is part of the routine she performs every day by rote and is uneventful. But on the second day, Jeanne's routine begins to unravel subtly, as she drops a newly washed spoon and overcooks the potatoes that she's preparing for dinner. These alterations to Jeanne's existence prepare for the climax on the third day, when she unexpectedly has an orgasm with the day's client, after which she stabs him fatally with a pair of scissors.[2]

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

The real 23 quai du Commerce, photographed in 2006.

After establishing herself as a major film director with Je, tu, il, elle (1974), Akerman said that she "felt ready to make a feature with more money" and applied for a grant from the Belgian government for financial support, submitting a script that Jane Clarke described as portraying "a rigorous regimen [constructed] around food ... and routine bought sex in the afternoon". This script would only be the rough basis for Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles because after Akerman received the government grant of $120,000 and began production, she threw the script out and began a new film instead.[3] Akerman also explained that she was able to make a female-centric film because "at that point everybody was talking about women" and that it was "the right time".[3]

Shooting Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles took five weeks and Akerman called it "a love film for my mother. It gives recognition to that kind of woman".[3] Akerman used an all female crew for the film, which she later said "didn't work that well - not because they were women but because I didn't choose them. It was enough just to be a woman to work on my film ... so the shooting was awful". Akerman further explained that "a hierarchy of images" that places a car accident or a kiss "higher in the hierarchy than washing up ... And it's not by accident, but relates to the place of woman in the social hierarchy ... Woman's work comes out of oppression and whatever comes out of oppression is more interesting. You have to be definite. You have to be".[3]

The film depicts the life of Jeanne Dielman in real time, which Akerman said "was the only way to shoot the film - to avoid cutting the action in a hundred pieces, to avoid cutting the action in a hundred places, to look carefully and to be respectful. the framing was meant to respect her space, her, and her gestures within it".[3] The long static shots ensure that the viewer "always knows where I am."[4]

Reception[edit]

Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles premiered at the Directors Fortnight at the 1975 Cannes Film Festival and was financially successful in Europe. Writer Peter Handke and filmmaker Alain Tanner have cited it as influential on their work. It was not released in the United States until 1983.[3]

Film critic John Coleman said that "the film's time span covers Tuesday (stew and potatoes), Wednesday (wiener schnitzel) and heady Thursday (meat loaf and Jeanne has an orgasm and kills her client with a pair of scissors). This orgasm bit is bound to strike the serious-minded as an unfortunate bow of crass commercialism".[3] Jonathan Rosenbaum defended the film and said that it "needs its running time, for its subject is an epic one, and the overall sweep ... trains one to recognize and respond to fluctuations and nuances. If a radical cinema is something that goes to the roots of experience, this is at the very least a film that shows where and how some of these roots are buried".[3] Critic Gary Indiana said that "Akerman's brilliance is her ability to keep the viewer fascinated by everything normally left out of movies".[3]

Feminist film critics immediately praised the film. B. Ruby Rich said that "never before was the materiality of woman's time in the home rendered so viscerally ... She invents a new language capable of transmitting truths previously unspoken".[3] Marsha Kidder called it "the best feature that I have ever seen made by a woman".[3] Akerman was reluctant to be seen as a feminist filmmaker, stating that "I don't think woman's cinema exists".[3]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Hoberman, J. (2001) [January 4, 2000]. "100 Best Films of the 20th Century: Village Voice Critics' Poll". The Village Voice (reprint ed.). Reprinted by AMC. 
  2. ^ Stanley Cavell on Film, ed. William Rothman, SUNY at Stony Brook Press, 2005, p. 257
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Wakeman, John. World Film Directors, Volume 2. The H. W. Wilson Company. 1988. pp. 4, 5.
  4. ^ Margulies, Ivone. "A Matter of Time: Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles". Film Essays. The Criterion Collection. Retrieved 15 December 2013. 

External links[edit]