Jeanne Dielman and Its Roots
Mar 31 — Apr 22, 2023
The brilliance of the selection of Chantal Akerman’s Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles as the greatest film of all time in Sight & Sound‘s 2022 critics’ poll is that the choice feels both subversive and merited. By picking an avant-garde narrative film after a 50-year reign by Citizen Kane followed by the 2012 selection of Vertigo, the magazine has exhilaratingly disrupted the canon. (Not incidentally, it is the first #1 film directed by a woman.) With its unrelenting focus on domestic life, Akerman’s film eschews grand themes and stylistic flourishes (unlike Citizen Kane, indeed a great film.)
Akerman always forged her own path in cinema, but she was deeply inspired by the underground films she saw while living in New York City in 1971 and 1972 (those by Michael Snow in particular), and by the great tradition of international art cinema including Robert Bresson, Carl Dreyer, Jean-Luc Godard, Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet, and Pier Paolo Pasolini. This series allows us to appreciate Jeanne Dielman as the unique masterpiece that it is while also seeing its deep roots in cinema history. It should be noted that Akerman did not believe in film polls (“It is tiring and not really necessary to do those kinds of things”), and that when she did once consent to name her favorite films, Vertigo was her top choice.
Organized by curator-at-large David Schwartz.