“Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles” is a 1975 French–Belgian drama film that depicts the daily life of a housewife with experimental techniques. Written and directed by Chantal Akerman. Starring Delphine Seyrig. 201 minutes.
The film follows Jeanne Dielman (Delphine Seyrig), a middle-aged widow who lives with her teenage son Sylvain in an apartment in Brussels, Belgium, in her daily life over three days, Tuesday through Thursday.
Jeanne does her routine according to schedule every day. In the morning, she polishes her son’s shoes, has breakfast, sends her son to school, clears the rooms, and takes her neighbor’s baby under her care. She deposits money at a bureau. She eats lunch. She buys groceries, and drinks coffee at a cafe. She keeps her household accounts. She has sex with a male client as a prostitute in her house in the afternoon when her son is in school. She takes a bath, and prepares dinner. After her son comes back home, she has dinner with her son. She knits a sweater for her son, listening to the radio, and browses the newspaper. She makes her son’s bed, and goes to bed.
To her, prostitution is just one of her daily routines.
One day, she overcooks the potatoes for dinner. She has only one potato left in stock. She drops a shoe brush and a newly washed spoon on the floor. She goes to the bureau, but it is closed. A strange woman is sitting on her usual seat at the cafe. She cannot make the baby stop crying. She makes cafe au lait, but it tastes bad. She finds one of the buttons on her son’s coat missing, so she tries to buy the button of the same type, but it cannot be found in any stores. Such little things throw her life into disorder though only gradually.
“Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles” premiered at the Directors Fortnight at the 1975 Cannes Film Festival.
The film is composed of long take shots filmed by fixed cameras, like surveillance video or webcam in real time, without close-ups, reverse angles, and point-of-view shots. There is no background music except for the pieces on the radio. There are not so many dialogues. It is an experimental film that excludes normal film techniques, such as transition by cutting and omission of time, and dramatic elements. Though it has a long running time (over three hours), it provides a fulfilling film experience without boring the audience.