Repertory Picks

Akerman’s Domestic Masterpiece at Harvard

On Friday evening, the Harvard Film Archive in Massachusetts, kicks off Breathing Through Cinema, a six-week retrospective of works by the late Chantal Akerman, with a screening, in 35 mm, of her early masterpiece Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (1975). Akerman was just twenty-five years old when she made the film, which depicts, in a series of increasingly tense long takes, the regimented routine of a single mother and part-time prostitute (Delphine Seyrig). At once a rigorous structuralist experiment, a stealthily revealing character study, and a feminist statement on alienation within the domestic sphere, the three-hour-and-twenty-one-minute film “works like a time bomb,” as scholar Ivone Margulies notes in the liner essay included on our edition of the film, recently released on Blu-ray. “And yet the acuity and amplified concreteness of [Akerman’s] images creates a visible instability: as the shot goes on, the viewer becomes aware of his/her own body, restless and then again interested.”

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