Lost in the Movies: Sight & Sound #1 Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles w/ guest Ashley Brandt (LOST IN THE MOVIES podcast #56)

Sight & Sound #1 Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles w/ guest Ashley Brandt (LOST IN THE MOVIES podcast #56)

My Sight & Sound podcast miniseries, covering the top five films I'd never covered before from the 2022 critics' and directors' lists of "greatest films of all time", starts at the very top. (Last week I offered a rundown of lower entries with links to my previous work.) The #1 movie I'd never written, podcasted, created a video essay, or even composed a visual tribute about was also the #1 movie on the entire list: Chantal Akerman's 1975 Belgian three-hour minimalist quasi-melodrama Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles, the story of a middle-aged widow (Delphine Seyrig) going about mundane tasks - and some unexpected, even shocking, activities - in her Brussels apartment, told in a series of long takes and static shots, released when the filmmaker was just twenty-five. The critics' choice (it placed fourth on the directors' list) caused quite a stir when it was chosen nearly a year ago, displacing 2012's choice Vertigo - which itself knocked Citizen Kane off its perch for the first time in forty years - and placing a female filmmaker atop a list where only men had cracked the top thirty.

Joining me for this discussion is Ashley Brandt (host of the podcast Twin Peaks Peeks, among other outposts), whose enthusiasm for Jeanne Dielman encouraged me to move forward with my planned Sight & Sound series despite a crowded schedule. In this case, it turns out, she was not just a conversation companion but a guide into this legendary work of art. Much to my surprise, when I finally popped the DVD of Jeanne Dielman into my player this summer, I discovered that the memories of my presumed first viewing from a decade ago were foggy for a very good reason: presumptions aside, I'd never actually seen the film before! And so I was able to watch this classic with completely fresh eyes. Here is my initial response to Jeanne Dielman, recorded eight months after the international poll canonized its high placement and fifteen years after I proclaimed this a "holy grail" film I hoped to seek out.

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