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Saturday, July 21, 2012

Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai Du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (1975)

Three days in the structured life of a widow (Delphine Seyrig) and single mother raising her son (Jan Decorte). Running three and a half hours with long stagnant takes and minimal dialogue, there's never been a film quite like it. In meticulous detail and most of the sequences in real time, director Chantal Ackerman documents the mundane daily activities of a housewife. For example, when Seyrig washes dishes, the stationary camera focuses on her back until she washes every dish, when she sits down to eat her supper, Seyrig eats her supper till her plate is clean without the camera cutting away (I hope she didn't have to do more than one take!), she makes veal cutlets and meat loaf before our very eyes, makes beds, knits, takes a bath etc. As the film begins, the tendency is to suspect self indulgence on the part of the film maker but slowly and before you realize it, it becomes compelling cinema. It's a testament to Seyrig's commanding screen presence that she's able to hold the camera for three and a half hours. I suppose some see a profundity of sorts in the film. I'm not sure I do and I'm not sure I'd care to see other film makers usurp this style but there's no denying this is a unique and pioneering film. The film's biggest mystery: Just what is that outside light that strobes the dining room?

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