Jeanne Dielman, 23, Quai du Commerce 1080 Bruxelles ★★★½

One day, about twenty years ago, I was listening to Leadbelly at work, and a perplexed co-worker asked how I could listen to something so old and under-produced. I explained that it was the heart of where everything he came from, including his beloved Nirvana, to which he replied, "oh, so it's like musical archaeology."

That's not what I get out of Leadbelly, but I thought about that remark during this film. I imagined how I'd have felt if I had seen this film twenty years ago, when I hadn't seen these moves pilfered by so many other filmmakers. I thought about how I would have felt if I wasn't coming to it with the expectations that come with a long-delayed viewing of an acclaimed masterpiece, one whose duration and pace is a forbidding statement of intent. I thought about whether those qualities are what made DIELMAN the consensus Akerman masterpiece, when even in my limited sampling I much prefer THE PASSION OF ANNA and HOTEL MONTEREY, or whether its centering of female labour gives it totemic power as a symbolic token of "female filmmaking", simultaneously elevating it and finding it devoid of meaning.

That probably seems like a lot to think about, but you've got a *lot* of time to think in JEANNE DIELMAN. There's much to applaud, particularly Delphine Seyrig's subtly modulated performance. But so often I felt the echoes of Akerman's work as it has reverberated to other filmmakers, both expected (Tsai, Hou, Haneke, Tarr, Diaz) and un-. (Her use of off-screen space for discussions is a striking quality in MANHATTAN, for instance, and the timing fits.)

Which is to say: there's no denying the importance or significance of this film. But it wasn't the spiritual experience I had been primed for. Was it me coming at it a bit tired? Or coming at it with a chip on my shoulder?

At any rate, it's where everything comes from, so I'm glad I saw it.