Jeanne Dielman, 23, Quai du Commerce 1080 Bruxelles

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

One of the all-time great action movies for the way it derives intense and multifaceted meaning out of repetitive physical activity - two rubes walked out of the screening I was at during the breading-veal-cutlets sequence - idiots! That's the best part! It defies most easy characterizations of it after the fact, as with the notion that despite the monotony and Jeanne's obvious dissatisfaction with her life, it never comes across as pointedly claustrophobic or suffocating.

This was my second time watching it and an idea occurred to me pretty early on that would explain a lot of the quiet emptiness in her solitude, lacking even any light self-chatter: She can feel us watching her. She knows there are infinite eyeballs watching her every move, so she can't even enjoy a comfortable moment of quiet to herself, she feels she has to be doing something. Creepy, right?

The guy introducing this characterized it as an early strike against "movies as pure entertainment," but it stands apart from the avant-garde pack too, though, working as a rewarding character study the likes of which this much formal control could choke the life out of in lesser films. The great contradiction at the center of the film is found here as well - that the more time we spend watching this woman, the more enigmatic she becomes. Maybe we just caught her on a bad week.

Joe liked these reviews