Jeanne Dielman, 23, Quai du Commerce 1080 Bruxelles

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

The is a great example of the concept of accretion in the human imagination and art. A few things — whether mounted butterflies, painted sunflower seeds or shots of a woman doing housework — catch and release our interest quickly. But a lot of those same things, when thoughtfully arranged, are transformed into something that can capture and hold our imagination. The become an spectral array of framed butterflies, an Ai Weiwei installation of a million sunflower seeds, or Chantal Akerman 3-1/2 hours of moments in Jeanne Dielman’s life that accrete into a mesmerizing masterpiece.

These repetitive quotidian daily activities had the similar effect on me as a pointillist painting, or a Persian tapestry, or a Philip Glass piece — endless repetition with subtle variations that accrete for something greater and more beautiful than their individual atoms.

Like a Persian tapestry or a one of Philip Glass’ minimalist compositions, it’s the subtle variations in Jeanne’s routine that jump out and leave an indelible imprint. My favorite moment is when she arrives at her afternoon cafe on a break from button hunting to find a lady in her usual seat. He does a quick take and sits awkwardly at the next table. The camera stays fixed on the usurper squeezing Jeanne to the right of the frame. She bolts her coffee and leaves.

The address in the film’s title is important because we come to know the apartment during our three days there. Our eyes wander during the long takes and we assess the mustard armchair, the soup terrine, the tile border in the kitchen.

Jeanne’s ordered life, contained and militarily regimented, is shot in symmetrical 90-degrees long takes by Akerman. What we learn at the end is something that Einstein tried to teach us: entropy always wins. Entropy is father to tragedy.

Suggested pairing: Polanski’s Repulsion

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