After repeated viewings, contemplation, and discussion, I don’t know what drives the main character of Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (Akerman, 1975). And I’m not just talking about the ending. Even after feeling a deep kinship with what I see on the screen, I don’t know that what drives me also drives her. It strikes me, though, that possibly our closest answer comes from how Chantal Akerman approached filming: with a lack of close ups, point-of-view shots, or quick cuts. She wanted the viewer to “always know where I am.” Maybe that’s why Jeanne fills every moment of the day with some task, to always know where she is, and therefore always know who she is.
But I still don’t know. Because Akerman expressly desired a style that removed all outward expression of excessive emotion or motivation, and instead explored both the beauty and tension in action and task. I can watch but I can’t always understand, which is how great art often affects me, and probably most of us. Do you recognize yourself, or perhaps your mother or relative? Or do you find some other corollary not defined by gender?
What you’ll find in this episode: more questions than answers, personal responsibility, choice, and the sublime that comes from the simple.
Links and Recommendations:
Check out Jeanne Dielman on IMDB.
Ericca’s further viewing pick of National Gallery.
Cole’s further viewing pick of Hôtel Monterey.
A brief clip of Delphine Seyrig’s documentary Be Pretty and Shut Up.
The text of the anti-diversity manifesto from a former employee at Google, where women are paid less than men.