Film Comment - 07/01/2009
"[A] masterpiece....Akerman and cinematographer Babette Mangolte opt for static symmetrical long takes and off-screen space to make the domestic hell of this commerce claustrophobically present."
A.V. Club - 08/26/2009
"Chantal Akerman's radical 1975 masterpiece JEANNE DIELMAN, 23 QUAI DU COMMERCE 1080 BRUXELLES turns the term 'realism' on its face, exploring the contours of a woman's life through the mundane routines that never make it into movies." -- Grade: A
Through a series of long takes, JEANNE DIELMAN details the methodical housework and psychological turmoil of a middle-class mother and part-time prostitute (Delphine Seyrig). Over the course of Jeanne's daily rituals (and the film's three-hour-plus running time), her tensions slowly break the ice of her blank affect, leading to a extraordinary climax. A landmark of feminist cinema, this oppressive drama from 25-year-old director Chantal Akerman has divided both critics and audiences: but few can doubt the power of actress Delphine Seyrig's masterful, nearly silent performance.
A singular work in film history, Chantal Akerman's Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles brillantly evokes, with meticulous detail and sense of impending doom, the daily domestic routine of a middle-aged widow - whose chores include making the beds, cooking dinner for her grown son, and turning the occasional trick- just as it begins to break down. In its enormous spareness, Akerman's film seems simple, but it encompasses an entire world. Whether seen as an exacting character portrait or one of cinema's most hypnotic and complete depictions of space and time, Jeanne Dielman is an astonishing, compelling movie experiment, one that has been analyzed and argued over for decades.