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SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.66:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • French Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono
  • English subtitles
  • 2 Discs
FEATURES
  • Autour de "Jeanne Dielman," a 70-minute documentary, shot by actor Sami Frey and edited by Agnes Ravez, made during the filming of Jeanne Dielman
  • New interviews with Akerman and cinematographer Babette Mangolte
  • Excerpt from "Chantal Akerman par Chantal Akerman," a 1997 episode of the French television program Cinťma de notre temps
  • An interview with Akerman's mother, Natalia
  • Archival television interview excerpt featuring Akerman and star Delphine Seyrig
  • Saute ma ville (1968), Akerman's first film, with an introduction by the director

Jeanne Dielman, 23, Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles


Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Chantal Akerman
Starring: Delphine Seyrig, Jan Decorte, Henri Storck, Jacques Doniol-Valcroze, Yves Bical
1975 | 201 Minutes | Licensor: Paradise Films

Release Information
DVD | MSRP: $39.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #484
RLJ Entertainment

Release Date: August 25, 2009
Review Date: August 8, 2009

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SYNOPSIS

A singular work in film history, Chantal Akerman's Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles brilliantly evokes, with meticulous detail and a 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, and is finally making its long-awaited DVD debut.

Forum members rate this film 9.4/10

 

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PICTURE

The Criterion Collection presents Chantal Akermanís Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles in its original aspect ratio of 1.66:1 on the first dual-layer disc of this two-disc set. The image has been enhanced for widescreen televisions.

The transfer is a little problematic and I suspect it has a lot to do with cramming a 201-minute film on a single DVD. The print itself looks great and presents very little in the way of damage with only a slight blemish appearing and a hair flickering about at the bottom on occasion. The ďFlemish colour paletteĒ (as the essay in the booklet puts it) is sort of dull but the colours do look good with some striking blues (the prominent colour here.)

There are some obvious issues with the transfer itself, some that I found a little distracting on occasion. There are compression artifacts and noise present, edge-enhancement also showing up in places. But the worst offenders are motion artifacts. I couldnít fully capture this in the screen grabs (though I tried) but there is a sort of jittery effect on occasion when there is movement on the screen. It becomes very obvious in patterns on clothing. Throughout the film Jeanne wears a house coat with a cross hatch pattern on it. When she moves about the pattern can fade out, ripple, and at times look to disappear. Her sonís sweater pattern can do the same thing as well. Quicker movements present more obvious problems.

I attribute it to the artifacts present. Criterion certainly did not soften the image and it looks sharp but I think the details present may have been a little too much. Oddly it may also depend on how you watch the film. Checking my HDDVD player, PS3 and regular Panasonic DVD player the issue is noticeable to varying degrees, but on my computer the problem wasnít as bad but still somewhat noticeable.

I donít want to blow it out of proportion since the film is still watchable, but I caught myself distracted at times. Again (and Iíve been saying this a lot lately) the film would be aided by a high-def Blu-ray release; the DVD format doesnít really handle it in the best fashion (or the film maybe should have been spread across two discs at least.)

7/10

All DVD screen captures are presented in their original size from the source disc. Images have been compressed slightly to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.

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AUDIO

Criterion presents the film with a French Dolby Digital 1.0 track. The sound design to the film is subtle but effective and the track found here presents it perfectly. There is a minimal amount of talking in the film but the minimal dialogue present does sound clear and distinctive. Music is only present when played over a radio and it sounds fine enough. Sound effects are quite heavy in the film, whether it be shoes stomping on the floor, doors squeaking, or potatoes being peeled, the sound effects are clear, distinct and loud. All things considered I found it a surprisingly strong mono track.

7/10

SUPPLEMENTS

Criterion, with the participation of Chantal Akerman, has put together a rather impressive special edition for the film. They have thankfully devoted the entire first disc to the film and have placed all of the supplements on the second dual-layer disc.

There are quite a few fascinating features on here but I think the most interesting inclusion would be the 69-minute documentary Autour de ďJeanne DielmanĒ a documentary (of sorts) recorded during the filming of Jeanne Dielman.... Itís made up entirely of raw footage and the footage in question is primarily made up of Akerman and Seyrig (and various crew members at times) discussing scenes, the character, and actually performing walkthroughs. Seyrig really pushes on Akerman, then 25, trying to understand why she wants her to do things in a certain fashion, a discussion on how Jeanne should brush her hair early on being a great example. Seyrig wants a direct answer on why Jeanne would brush her a hair a specific way but Akerman really doesnít have an answer (in an interview elsewhere on the disc she mentions that she didnít know how to answer some of Seyrigís questions because it just seemed obvious to her why it should be the way she wanted.) Seyrig also briefly talks about feminism and the point of view a woman filmmaker can offer. This is actually one of the better making-ofs Iíve seen, specifically because it concentrates principally on the director and her leadís relationship.

Chantal Akerman: On Jeanne Dielman is a 20-minute interview with the director done exclusively for Criterion. She begins by explaining how she developed an interest in filmmaking, which occurred after she saw Pierrot le fou at the age of 15 and realizing that films could be art as well. She talks about moving to New York, her work with cinematographer Babette Mangolte, and then her interest in experimental filmmaking. She then talks about how Jeanne Dielman came to be, about running into Delphine Seyrig at a festival and then making an unusual deal with her to get her to star in the film. She spends half of the interview talking about the film and mentions her influences on the subject matter and the rituals in the film (her aunts were a primary influence.) Amazingly despite a premiere where various audience members kept leaving the film was picked up for various festivals and she was then given the label of a great filmmaker. Itís a nice interview and I enjoyed listening to her talk about the film.

Chantal Akerman: On Filmmaking is a set of excerpts taken from a 1997 episode of Cinťma de notre temps. The original episode runs 63-minutes (according to IMDB) but it has been cut down to 17-minutes here. Apparently the full feature is made up primarily of footage from her films, so the cuts here could have been due to rights issues. Disappointingly of all the features on this disc I found this one the least engaging, which is odd since I usually love the material Criterion pulls from Cinema de notre temps. In this Akerman states she was pulled in to make an episode about a director. When she was told that all the directors she wanted to cover had already been done she joked that maybe she should do an episode on herself, which they thought was a great idea. Maybe I missed something, or maybe something important was cut, but I was a little lost at her presentation, which consists of her reading from what I think is a treatment for the episode. In all honesty I didnít gather much from it.

Moving on to something better is a 7-minute 1976 television interview with Chantal Akerman and Delphine Seyrig. Akerman gets some time to talk about her film and what she intended with it but itís obvious the interviewer (one Michael Drucker) is more concerned about interviewing Seyrig than actually concentrating on this newcomer director. Seyrig talks about taking on this unglamourous role and her reasons for doing it, plus she adds in little tid-bits like how this was her first time actually making coffee. I was actually a little amused when Drucker tried to suggest a possible message to the film only to have both Akerman and Seyrig ring in that this is not a film with a message. Not a great interview but I enjoyed watching it just to see a young Akerman new to all of this and a seasoned Seyrig.

Criterion has also recorded a 23-minute interview with cinematographer Babette Mangolte who worked with Akerman on a few of her films early on. She talks about first meeting the young woman (at the age of 21) and the interest they shared in experimental cinema (thanks to some of the works of Michael Snow.) She talks about a couple of their early films, La chambre and Hotel Monterey, both experimental films (and clips are included here) and then gets into a great amount of detail about the shoot of Jeanne Dielman which was surprisingly complicated since they were shooting in an actual apartment that didnít have a lot of room. It a nice extension on Akermanís interview.

And probably my second favourite feature on here is an interview with Natalia Akerman, Chantalís mother. This interview between Chantal and her mother was recorded in 2007. The notes mention that the original intention by the filmmakers was to edit out Chantal but she has been left in. Itís really a charming 29-minute piece where her mother reflects on her work starting with her first short film Saute ma ville, then Jeanne Dielman, and finally News From Home. Sheís incredibly proud of her daughter and loves her films (I was also charmed by her excitement over meeting Delphine Seyrig) and of course, as one would expect, the biggest fear she had about her daughterís films was that no one would like them. The discussion between the two is interesting and Iím glad that the two were left in together.

And finally we get Akermanís first short film Saute ma ville, running about 13-minutes. Akerman offers a quick introduction explaining the film and comparing it to Jeanne Dielman. The film itself is somewhat similar, though with a slightly quicker pace, focusing on a young Akerman and like Dielman it focuses on the mundane actions of the character, though just in her kitchen (driving her mad of course.) Itís actually pretty impressive when one considers she was only 18 when she made it. I wonít call it a great film but itís nicely put together. While itís in 1.66:1 it has not been enhanced for widescreen televisions.

The set then comes with a booklet containing an essay by Ivone Margulies offering some insight into the film and discussing some of Akermanís other films.

Other than the one feature taken from Cinema de notre temps I found this a very fulfilling and worthwhile collection of supplementary material. Together they all offer a tremendous amount about the film and its production.

9/10

CLOSING

I was a little disappointed with the transfer, but I canít say I was too surprised: the film is incredibly long and thereís going to be issues in compressing it to fit on DVD. The supplements on the other hand are fantastic overall thoroughly covering the film and its production. I only wish Criterion saw fit to give it a Blu-ray release as well.


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