Directed By: Chantal Akerman
"Jeanne Dielman..." is pretty easy to explain plot wise, so this shouldn't take too long. Jeanne (Seyrig) is a typical french female, who lives in an apartment with her teenage son. She doesn't work, but has a number of daily chores to keep her busy. She enjoys preparing meals for her son Sylvain (Decorte), which she puts a lot of time and thought into. She cleans, folds, goes to market and does the typical routines of a normal female. When her son is at school, she prostitutes herself to the men of France, to make a few dollars on the side. The film is split up into three days and Akerman uses VERY long takes to hammer home the mundane feel of Jeanne's life. On the first day, everything comes off like clockwork and we soon realize that Jeanne has been playing out her routine, day after day, for a very long time, as she knows just how to snap through and have it all done just as her son walks through the door at night. Day two begins, Jeanne gets Sylvain off to school, goes about her chores and errands and when her "john" arrives, they go to the bedroom. Upon their exit from the bedroom, and his subsequent exit from her apartment, Jeanne is not herself. We don't know what took place in the bedroom, because the camera confined us to the hallway, but something happened in there and Jeanne is in a definite state of disarray. She goes through the rest of the film dropping things, burning meals and totally mussing up her entire schedule.
I have a lot of thoughts on this one, so hopefully I can keep all of them in order. I'll start off by saying that I DID like the film. Granted, I did watch it in two sittings, but I managed to keep it all contained in one night (last night). I was actually very pleased with the LONG camera shots and felt that they allowed me as a viewer to connect with the main character on a bit of a personal level. We got to be like peeping toms or followers as we watched "Jeanne Dielman", peering into her life for a few days. Now, nobody ever said it was an exciting life, so we're really peering in on some mundane things, but they are things that we all do. I'm sure there are millions of Jeanne Dielman's walking listlessly through life, as they go about their daily routine with a flawless knowledge of their own goings on. Actually, and this may sound odd, but I would have preferred longer takes on some scenes and a LOT less dialogue. In fact, I felt this experimental film would've been much more of an experiment if we had nixed the character of Sylvain and just watched Jeanne, sans dialogue, go through her daily life - loneliness and alienation constantly surrounding her. However, I won't harp on that and the experiment of "Jeanne Dielman..." left me happy to be a guinea pig.
I don't know, I could be WAY off on that theory, but nothing else really seems to make sense. I first thought rape, but you can't rape the willing. I guess, in the end, it really doesn't matter exactly what happened, just so we're clear that something happened to Jeanne that was bad enough (in her mind) to throw her completely off her game plan and drive her to murder. In fact, nothing in this film is REALLY important. I didn't watch "Jeanne Dielman...", but rather I observed "Jeanne Dielman...". If I didn't understand something, it was okay, because I was no more than an onlooker peering in on someone's daily life. It didn't matter that I didn't know what type of machine that Jeanne was stuffing change into, mid-film. It didn't matter that I didn't know why she didn't get paid by the woman for babysitting. It didn't matter that I didn't know where Jeanne and Sylvain were going every night after dinner. It was only imperative that I observed their life. If I were to go across the street and look through the curtains of my neighbors home for three days, then at the end of those three days, I'd surely have some questions.
For my money, something BIG had to happen in the end and it did when Jeanne plunged a pair of scissors into the neck of her third client. The whole time I was thinking Jeanne was going to kill herself and honestly, maybe that's what should have happened, because I have a feeling that this character was definitely pondering suicide as she sat alone, in the dark, at the dining room table following her murder. I liked the way the film ended too - just as it started - nothing fancy, nothing glitzy, just Jeanne sitting alone in the dark, thinking.
RATING: 7.5/10 Knee jerk rating there, but I could definitely see it rising as time goes by. Wouldn't mind picking this one up via the Criterion DVD release.