“The consecration of Chantal Akerman is great news, beyond a feminist reading”

On imagine, not without greed, the face that tens of thousands of film professionals must have made around the world, in Hollywood in particular, when they discovered “The 100 Best Movies in History” unveiled on 1er December by British Film Review Sight and Sound. Especially the identity of the winner. Who is a winner. Or Chantal Akerman, and her film Jeanne Dielman, 23, Quai du Commerce, 1080 Brusselswhich she shot in 1975 with Delphine Seyrig.

Read also: Making of Jeanne Dielman, feminist manifesto by Chantal Akerman

Many have probably never heard of this film with the bizarre title and the Franco-Belgian filmmaker, author of around thirty films, who died in 2015 at the age of 65.

We can already hear the sighs. It’s nonsense, these rankings… Except that this newspaper produces a respected list, because it has been revised every ten years since 1952, and that its jury is substantial – 1,639 film specialists, worldwide. Let us add that a classification, because it is subjective, constitutes the mirror of an art, of a society, of an era.

Read the obituary: Filmmaker Chantal Akerman is dead

The jury consecrates for the first time a film directed by a woman, shot with almost only women, which tells the story of a woman. And for eight days, the reactions oscillate between admiration and affliction. Many, out of curiosity, must have watched an extract on YouTube and discovered this sequence where Delphine Seyrig, filmed in a fixed shot, peels three potatoes for six minutes. The intrepid will see her taking a bath and scrubbing a bathtub for five minutes. They will come out of this trip at the end of boredom fascinated or frightened. To recover, they will run on December 14 see Avatar: The Way of the Waterby James Cameron.

Akerman’s film, made when she was 25, recounts three metronomic domestic days, swallowed up by household chores, of a widow at home with her teenager, and who is also a prostitute for three clients in order to keep her budget – the full title of the film refers to it. It goes on like this for more than three hours, punctuated by rare and dry dialogues, until the moment when the routine daily life goes out of order to end in a radical gesture.

A masterpiece

It’s a terrible film for many, a masterpiece for us – for its subject, its form, its narrative, for the sound of the knife on the cutting board, for Delphine Seyrig. When the actress was asked why she made this film, she replied: “We have never filmed what half of humanity is going through. »

The consecration of Chantal Akerman is closely linked to the recent evolution of the jury – more numerous, feminized, globalized, diversified. His victory is total since another of his films is on the charts (News from Home, 1977). Bonus, Jeanne Dielman dethrones VertigoHitchcock, and Citizen Kane, by Orson Welles, two monster works by two filmmakers embodying the tyrannical macho.

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