Chantal Akerman’s Jeanne Dielman and Saute ma ville are both depictions of a woman’s work in the home, but portray two women who approach domestic tasks very differently. The mother, Jeanne Dielman, performs sex work for male clients daily for her and her son’s subsistence. Like her other activities (bathing, knitting, and shining her shoes), Jeanne’s sex work is part of the routine she performs every day by rote and is uneventful. Jeanne performs every task according to a strict routine, from peeling potatoes to lighting the oven and replacing the matchbox, while the younger woman in Saute ma ville works her way up her entire shin with shoe polish while shining her shoes. The interior space is a stage for the women’s domestic rituals—the difference between their approaches is underscored by the rhythm of the tasks and gestures. While Saute ma ville’s singularity stems from the frenetic and absurd tendencies of the main character, her final act of destruction seems oddly deliberate. On the other hand, it is the movement away from order in Jeanne Dielman that, suddenly and surprisingly, leads to death. The kitchen becomes a place of both order and chaos. Deviations from perfection or even logic culminate in destruction. Akerman’s use of real time in tandem with the portrayal of dull and predictable routines give the viewer an almost frustratingly real sense of the unarticulated tragedy of estrangement, loneliness and disconnection. “Jeanne Dielman is as influential and as important for generations of young filmmakers as Welles’s and Godard’s first films have been. . . It is no overstatement to say that she made one of the most original and audacious films in the history of cinema.”—Richard Brody, The New Yorker. In French with English subtitles.
In conjunction with the screening of Jeanne Dielman, on Sunday, November 20, 2-4pm, Bérénice Reynaud will deliver a lecture/dialogue about Akerman’s work at the PNCA Mediatheque, 511 NW Broadway. Please see https://nwfilm.org/films/chantal-akerman-la-passion-de-lintime-an-intimate-passion/ for further details.
Update 11/15: Saute Ma Ville will not be screened alongside Jeanne Dielman at this event, despite prior listings indicating the pair.