Saturday, October 10, 2015

Reflections on Jeanne Dielman

53NYFF October 9 Special Screening of Jeanne Dielman, 23, Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles, in honor of Chantal Akerman, whose latest and final film No Home Movie is in the Main Slate..
Disclosure: Seeing Jeanne Dielman now, in 2015, is nothing remotely like the experience of seeing it in 1975 at the Bleecker St Cinema, though the color palette of the film was instantly recognizable, as was the 50s-style decor. The 50s ambiance is reinforced by continual turning off of light switches when leaving a room, very much a post WWII habit.
Nor does the experience of story remotely correspond to the way the film has been referred to this past week in the media, as though it boils down to Jeanne Dielman (Delphine Seyrig) having paid sex while the potatoes are boiling on the stove.
No, the experience of watching the film is cinematically far richer & more complex--and more humorous--than the boiled potatoes reference would imply. And although Akerman eschews so-called traditional coverage and shoots in master shots, the film is by no means all shot in real time. The selection of scenes that are, of course, gives them an added kind of soothing emphasis.
Here are a few observations: With regard to the mise-en-scene and brilliantly crisp and precise cinematography by Babette Mangolte, with whom Akerman had mad several short films during her 1971-1972 stay in New York, the variety of camera positions used within what seemed like very small spaces, especially the kitchen, is truly amazing. No conceivable camera position seems to have been left unexplored.
The address in the film’s title, Quai du Commerce, is well-chosen, since in the afternoons Dielman is herself engaged in a commercial activity. But in the mornings she also she spends quite a bit of time on the street, not soliciting (we're not told how she secures her clients in a pre-digital age) but in normal shopping for groceries/ After her thankless teenage son points out there's a button missing on his winter coat, she hunts for a replacement. In those days there was clearly an ample choice, at least in Bruxelles, of notions stores. This is also a thankless task because the coat was sent from Canada by a relative, and the buttons prove impossible to match.

Ps Kudos to NYFF for the free, and well-attended, screening yesterday, especially in the Elinor Bunin Monroe Theater, which has seats far more suited for warching a 3 !/3 hour movie than Walter Reade across the street
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