Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles

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Time Out says

Chantal Akerman's feature is one of the few 'feminist' movies that's as interesting aesthetically as politically. It covers three days in the life of a bourgeois widow who supports herself and her somewhat moronic son by taking in a 'gentleman caller' each afternoon. Much of the film simply chronicles her ritualised routine, but does it in an ultra-minimal, precise style that emphasises the artifice of the whole thing...and gradually the artifice (coupled with the fact that Delphine Seyrig plays the woman) shifts the plot into melodrama, so that the film becomes a bourgeois tragedy.
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David Harris

Well for one I didn't find your comments "stuffy" or "conservative"; I just took that they revealed an expectation that is not a part of this film's objective. That said, I saw the film 25 years ago at the Alliance Francaise here in New York with an audience that was easily 30-40 years my senior, making them major sensior citizens. For the full 3 hours and 20 minutes they sat on hard wooden chairs totally rapt by the whole thing. Even I was astonished by their endurance levels, given their age, but it was really something to see. I also think advance reviews of any film or work of art be it said that it is "bad" or "brilliant" load the viewer with expectations, rather than allowing them to experience the work for themselves. I hardly think this an intellectualization; just a desire to make my own decisions without subjective input from "experts" who are really self appointed anyway. But this is the case with most art anyway, and gets back to my main point: that a film be evaluated on it's own merits, what it sets out to do, the social context in which it is produced and the value system it either underscores or challenges. True, we disagree on whether this film achieved this objective, but I have to say I'd watch Jeanne Dielman 50 times in a row before watching the greater majority of what is projected on screens today. Better yet, I'll just conserve my cash (so in these days) and just watch 30 second commercials. It's a lot easier and less tedious in the end.

David Harris

Well for one I didn't find your comments "stuffy" or "conservative"; I just took that they revealed an expectation that is not a part of this film's objective. That said, I saw the film 25 years ago at the Alliance Francaise here in New York with an audience that was easily 30-40 years my senior, making them major sensior citizens. For the full 3 hours and 20 minutes they sat on hard wooden chairs totally rapt by the whole thing. Even I was astonished by their endurance levels, given their age, but it was really something to see. I also think advance reviews of any film or work of art be it said that it is "bad" or "brilliant" load the viewer with expectations, rather than allowing them to experience the work for themselves. I hardly think this an intellectualization; just a desire to make my own decisions without subjective input from "experts" who are really self appointed anyway. But this is the case with most art anyway, and gets back to my main point: that a film be evaluated on it's own merits, what it sets out to do, the social context in which it is produced and the value system it either underscores or challenges. True, we disagree on whether this film achieved this objective, but I have to say I'd watch Jeanne Dielman 50 times in a row before watching the greater majority of what is projected on screens today. Better yet, I'll just conserve my cash (so in these days) and just watch 30 second commercials. It's a lot easier and less tedious in the end.

John Lucas Fuller

The problem is, I got the point and still couldn't stand the film, because it was completely drained of any mystery or ambiguity. It seems that it only exists to illustrate that point, and that makes it a second-rate work of art at best. The greatest of art, or even art that can be called "great," must be more than the sum of its parts, which this film isn't.

David Harris

The two prior reviews on this page reveal a disposition that is clearly both anathema to and subject of this great film. I don't think the filmmaker sets out to be "radical" or "unconventional" or "arty". Rather, I think she seeks to make visible the gestures of the lives of millions of women whose gestures are both wholly taken for granted within their social context, and most certainly in the movies, where they are elided completely. By making visible what is always invisible, and using the theme of prostitution and a woman's sexual orgasm as the ticking time bomb against the rigid order of all that supposedly keeps life neatly in place, ends up making not just a psychological thriller far ahead of it's time but an insightful commentary on the state of many women's lives up to the turn of the 21st century. Not to say those lives no longer exist (for they surely do) but how bold to make the commonplace for once the source of strangeness an anxiety, rather than the self imposed cliches of "action" that propel so many false narratives.

David Harris

The two prior reviews on this page reveal a disposition that is clearly both anathema to and subject of this great film. I don't think the filmmaker sets out to be "radical" or "unconventional" or "arty". Rather, I think she seeks to make visible the gestures of the lives of millions of women whose gestures are both wholly taken for granted within their social context, and most certainly in the movies, where they are elided completely. By making visible what is always invisible, and using the theme of prostitution and a woman's sexual orgasm as the ticking time bomb against the rigid order of all that supposedly keeps life neatly in place, ends up making not just a psychological thriller far ahead of it's time but an insightful commentary on the state of many women's lives up to the turn of the 21st century. Not to say those lives no longer exist (for they surely do) but how bold to make the commonplace for once the source of strangeness an anxiety, rather than the self imposed cliches of "action" that propel so many false narratives.

PDG

This is a pretentious, pointless exercise in stretching a minimal idea into an agonizing, never ending waste of time. The elite of the movie critics might deem this a masterpiece, but I don't think any "regular" human being can appreciate (or even stand for that matter) 3.5 hours of somebody else's boring life in almost real time (including about 20 SLOW escalator rides). This is a film made for movie critics, not for the public - in particular definitely not for New Yorkers... I guess it's one of those movies somebody had to make, just to be original and somewhat experimental. It feels more like conceptual art than cinema - there's no story, no structure, no emotion: it's just an idea (a very small one). My advice is: let the music geeks "enjoy" it and stay away from it.

John Lucas Fuller

Apparently I'm the only person who thinks this film is unbearable. I have read nothing but glowing reviews of it, and for this reason I guess I was expecting something...well, I guess the word "better" somehow doesn't even apply here. First of all, I just want to say that the film has merits. Visually, it has uniform elegance and a very convincing pace. The performances of the actors are exactly what they needed to be. And, in a way, the film was everything it needed to be...to be what it was. The problem, in my mind, is that "what it was" was very pretentious and contrived. The director's agenda was so painfully transparent that I just couldn't get anything out of it. Repetition, repetition, repetition, and then the facade begins to crack. One of the problems is that, going into it, I knew what to expect. I'd read several reviews, and I already knew what the filmmaker was going for. But never in my life have I experienced such a deflating effect of knowing what to expect. It wasn't just that I knew what was going to happen. I saw one screen shot from the film before going into it and I knew exactly the way everything was going to look from start to finish. The basic premise of repetition falling apart and giving way to psychological distress was ALL THAT HAPPENED. It's really the only film I've ever seen that I feel was unnecessary to see after reading about. I was very surprised how highly esteemed and important this film is considered. I've seen a lot of films, and this one really seemed cliched, contrived, and "arty" to such an obvious degree. The fact that people love it baffles me and makes me wonder about their own abilities to "think outside the box" if seeing something like this seems so refreshing and new.