Monday, November 09, 2009

Jeanne Dielman: Solitude's a fortress?

by Ryland Walker Knight

—The lid!

It took Danny some time to get me this copy of Criterion's beautiful new edition of Akerman's masterpiece, and then it took me a little time to get my image-essay together. But I have, now, with another assist from Danny on the gif-making, and you can take a look by clicking here. As I looked for these images these past weeks, I noticed how, for all the long takes and long monologues, Akerman cuts some sequences rather rapidly. The space isn't cut up, of course, as we often linger after the frame has emptied, but the apartment is a maze of separation; finding the pathways' connections is difficult. This spatial confusion is another funny knot I spend the "down time" attempting to untangle. Is the bathroom across from the kitchen? How far is it down that hall to the bed?

The first time I saw the picture, at the PFA with Jen, I was drowsy and a lot of the choreography's humor was lost on me. Not that Akerman is Tati or anything, but there's something hilarious about how aloof Jeanne/Seyrig is when she drops that shoe buffer, or when she can't figure where to put the mushy 'taters. (Though that's also quietly devastating.) Put another way, the picture is a lot more contradictory than I remember. I can't imagine falling in love with it the way some of my friends have, but this time definitely shined more and showed me more. Maybe you can tell me some other things I'm missing in the comments here or there. (For what it's worth, Kasman would love it if you dropped the comments over there.) The most obvious thing is that I've ignored a lot of the feminist appeal of the picture, but that's just because, as Jeanne tells her son, I'm not a woman: it's not my argument, as I see it. Or, I wouldn't want to speak for Jeanne or Chantal or Gina or Jen—nor Miriam nor Mia nor Maya nor Martha—that is, not for any of the strong ladies I'm lucky to know. They're liable to... get smart with me. See, without being too-too silly a scaredy-cat, I should assure you that, like all good feminists, these ladies aren't all bark.

—Beware the bureau!

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