Jeanne Dielman 23, quai du Commerce 1080 Bruxelles, one of the real masterworks of modern cinema, is out on DVD. Director Chantal Akerman was only 25 when she helmed (with an all female crew) this three-hour-and-20-minute film about three days in the life of a widow and mother (played by the great Delphine Seyrig). Akerman lingers on her day to day rituals -- washing, straightening, cooking, frugally turning on and off the lights when she enters a room. Her son comes home, they have dinner, they take a walk, she puts on the radio and knits. But during the day she has gentleman in and turns tricks (usually for the amount of time it takes to cook dinner). Her structured universe suddenly begins to unravel with deadly consequences. The staggering length of the film is definitely part of its power. A moment when she burns potatoes suddenly seems jarring. A search across town for a button has a weird sense of suspense to it. The grinding familiarity of the flat suddenly seems dark and ominous. The look, the sound and feel of the 1975 film is on the surface very simple but it’s emotionally complex and incredibly powerful. A true work of genius.
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