Jeanne Dielman, 23, Quai du Commerce 1080 Bruxelles

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

Less a film and more a test of the audience’s patience, “Jeanne Dielman” follows a typical week in the life of a widowed mother in France. She cleans her apartment, prepares food for herself and her son, looks after another person’s baby, and works as a prostitute out of her bedroom. When her son comes home they don’t talk much, and while she never shows outward frustration, it’s evident that her existence is one of extraordinary loneliness.

What makes the film unique is that it makes explicit the boring nature of the protagonist’s life by showing practically everything she does in her day in essentially real-time. We are treated to repetitive shots of her leaving the apartment and riding up and down the elevator, watching her prepare an entire meal with no cuts, cleaning every dish in the kitchen, and the entirety of her stilted conversations with her son.

The problem is with me, I suppose, since the film is extraordinarily worshipped by film scholars as a feminist masterpiece. I understand what writer-director Chantal Ackerman was trying to do, but I’m a fan of economical storytelling, and this plot felt like it could have been told in a short film format. I liked some things, like that the hideaway bed is a metaphor for her job as a sex worker, taken out and put away at will.

The flat shots express the dullness of her life well enough though, we don’t need a full scene where she completely peels a potato to get the point. Remember when Hitchcock said movies are just life with the dull bits cut out? “Jeanne Dielman” is like that except the part where the boring sections are excised. It plays like the self-indulgent rough edit a director would turn in first before it was properly trimmed.

Am I a misogynistic monster for not appreciating the “art” in this movie? Possibly. But when I watch a three and a half-hour film where to be bored is the point, that’s where I personally draw the line. A movie should either entertain or intellectually stimulate me, and while I can appreciate how it tries to do the latter, it came up short. Two stars.

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