Chantal Akerman’s 1975 film Jeanne Dielman, 23, Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles is the first by a female director to top the Sight and Sound survey.
Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo had previously come first in the poll, which is carried out every ten years. But this year the 1958 thriller was voted second while Citizen Kane – which dominated the list for 40 years – came in third. No other film made by a woman has even reached the top ten in the poll’s 70-year history, with Akerman placed 35th in 2012.
The film examines a single mother’s regimented schedule of cooking, cleaning and mothering over three days. The mother, Jeanne Dielman (whose name is only derived from the title and from a letter she reads to her son), has sex with male clients in her house each afternoon, for her and her son’s subsistence. Like her other activities, Jeanne’s sex work is part of the routine she performs every day by rote and is uneventful. But on the second and third day, Jeanne’s routine begins to unravel subtly, as she overcooks the potatoes that she’s preparing for dinner, and drops a newly washed spoon. These alterations to Jeanne’s existence prepare for the climax on the third day.
Foreign film for women, in French. Yeah, right. Started to buy it, wid English subtitles, but I doubt it is anywhere near as good as Mel Gibson’s Apocalypto, so I’ll just skip it. Sounds like some kind of Affirmative Action award in the ‘Age of Wokeness‘…but, also sounds good if it were in English and shorter (201 minutes).