Danny Clukey’s review published on Letterboxd:
One of the best-constructed films and depictions of reality ever seen in cinema!
So I have finally re-watched Jeanne Dielman after 4 or so years after my first viewing in which I was very underwhelmed. Just recently, I have been wanting to view this film again as my cinematic taste has changed very much so over the last 5 years. On first viewing, I was frustrated with the films lengthy duration and repetitiveness - I was unable to connect emotionally with the character or her life. Quite simply, I viewed it at a point in my life when I was not ready for such a masterpiece.
What's changed? Well ... earlier today I finally had the opportunity to view the film again after countless efforts trying over the last year. Apart from buying a Criterion DVD of Jeanne Dielman, It's pretty much impossible to find a way of viewing the film. Jeanne Dielman was set to be screened in Sheffield on the big screen with limited tickets as part of the 'Beyond the Mainstream' season and the 'Cult movie retrospective season.' I grabbed myself a ticket, endured a long week of essays upon essays and work after work and finally experienced this film again in the way it should be watched; on the big screen! I felt ready to view this epic classic again and wow did It pay off!
I was sat, hypnotised for 3hrs and 20 minutes. Not a single outside thought entered my mind but only of this film and this character. This is simply one of the greatest pieces of cinema I have ever experienced. The amount of detail Akerman constructed in the film is absolutely astonishing that it makes me almost depressed realising I could never make something this beautiful or this mesmerising!
This is one of the finest examples of cinematic contemporary art. It was a major breakthrough for feminist filmmaking (A major breakthrough for filmmaking in general that broke the Classical Hollywood Narrative structure). It is a thrilling, painful, existential document that really gives validation and agency to the struggle of women against the visible and invisible hands of patriarchy. The great Delphine Seyrig plays a woman (mostly silently) going about her daily tasks and through penetrative observation we start to realise the utter frustration and oppression of her life through absolute incredible construction. Minor details that seem irrelevant at the time are actually some of the most important instances.
The film is shot over the course of 3 days (2 ½ days in exact time) and Jeanne’s daily routine is played out in real time. The camera remains static throughout the film and we are never presented with close-ups or any form of camera movement. We sit, observing and hypnotised. We become almost like the 3rd character to Jeanne and her son. At first, watching these actions performed in full seems a touch unnerving - this is something that many people have carried out hundreds of times, but we have never before been forced to pay attention to the monotony of daily chores in such precise, explicit detail. However, holding these shots for so long draws the viewer in even further, making them concentrate on every action so that when even the slightest cracks and disruptions in her routine appear in Jeanne’s daily life, it appears to be almost earth-shattering, just as the effect this has on Jeanne is equally momentous. Delphine Seyrig (who also stars in Last Year at Marienbad, another great) plays Jeanne with astonishing subtlety and restraint, almost impassive and detached throughout the three hours and twenty minutes of running time, yet it remains one of the most affecting, commanding performances ever seen in Cinema. It is a very long film but there is not a frame or a second in the film that is to be missed. Everything is so precise and important that builds and sets up an event that occurs in the 3rd half of the film.
I am viewing this film again in the next week to fully analyse every frame, action, and detail as this film is a magnum opus of explicit detail and construction that needs to be deconstructed. The next essay I am writing will be based on Jeanne Dielman. This film is right up there for me with the works of Bela Tarr and Andrei Tarkovsky! It is a film that I will repeatedly return to through my life; working as the reminder of why I love movies!
6/5. Wait for the right moment then treat yourself to the magical Jeanne Dielman!