Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Deja-Vu Melodrama: An Iconographical and Iconological Analysis of "Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles"

Editor's Note: As you will notice, this is quite a long essay on many aspects of Chantal Akerman's masterwork which has reopened this week at Film Forum with a new 35mm print. This article investigates and discusses specific details about the film, including the possibly shocking ending (if you don't know what's coming). While this essay may help inform a first viewing of the film, it includes "spoilers" of the events that take place in the film – not that there are really that many. Just wanted to warn everyone going in. JH

by Maria Fosheim Lund

The purpose of this essay is to investigate what I shall claim is a liaison between Chantal Akerman’s 1975 film Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles and the melodrama. Multifarious by nature, Jeanne Dielman consequently resists being “shoehorned” into any specific category, genre, or mode, thus the aim here is not to force an overdetermined prefix onto the film, but rather to highlight its critical potential as it engages in a larger sociopolitical and aesthetic discourse both with and via the melodrama. By analyzing the structure of the film, together with its use of mise-en-scène, the focus in the first part of the essay will be on elements the film appropriates from the melodrama, and how the relationship between the melodrama and Jeanne Dielman can be characterized, via investigating to what degree the film can be defined as a generic pastiche. This iconographical analysis will further compare the film in relation to the framework of the Hollywood family melodrama, as defined and explained by Thomas Elsaesser in his article "Tales of Sound and Fury: Observations on the Family Melodrama."

The second part of the essay will focus on different levels of critique inherent in the filmic text of Jeanne Dielman, by focusing on three such critical discourses I believe the film engages in. The first, and most basic level of critique has to do with the relationship between Jeanne Dielman as an “avant-garde” and/or “modernist” film and its attitude towards the traditional and commercial art institutions and industry— in this context the Hollywood industry and specifically the Hollywood family/domestic melodrama. The second and third levels of critique will be investigated in relation to the film’s ambiguous ending, through looking at the pre-determined socio-political framework inherent in the melodrama: the bourgeois framework, which defines much of the realm of the (Hollywood) melodrama. This aspect will be highlighted through a discussion of the film’s relation and approach to the happy ending, where further the feminist potential of the film will be researched though looking at different feminist interpretations of the film. Finally, these aesthetical and political discourses of Jeanne Dielman will be brought together and considered in relation to the ideological schematics and categories of Comolli and Narboni’s canonical 1969 essay “Cinema/Ideology/Criticism.”

Melodrama and the structure of Jeanne Dielman
Jeanne Dielman of the film’s title is a widow and a housewife/homemaker of the petite bourgeoisie in Brussels, who lives alone with her teenaged son Sylvain, and earns her income through prostitution, accepting a different client in her apartment every afternoon. Over the course of three days in diegetic time, the film depicts in great detail the quotidian routine and platitude of the protagonist’s life, a routine that consists of conducting banal household chores. As Jeanne Dielman with small, precise gestures and minimal effort peels potatoes, shines her son’s shoes, prepares dinner or brews coffee, the camera continually keeps her in medium close-up as she spends large parts of the day in the kitchen. There is further an absence of the shot-reverse-shot editing technique found in classical Hollywood continuity style, as the protagonist is constantly to be found within the static frame, or in two-shots with her son. The shots varies between being long—often longer than two minutes—and consequently constitute whole scenes or sequences, rhythmically interrupted by intervals of shorter shots, as Jeanne paces back and forth between the kitchen, the living room, the bedroom, the bathroom, and back. Most of Jeanne’s actions are depicted in real time, with no edited cuts or ellipsis, so for example when Jeanne peels potatoes or takes a bath, it will take three full minutes both in the diegetic and real time—everything is literally done as well as enacted. A notable exception to this convergence of diegetic and real time happens as Jeanne welcomes her daily male customer into the apartment, and leads him to the bedroom which she has carefully prepared by letting in fresh air and putting a white towel over the bed covers. In these events the camera does not follow Jeanne into bedroom as it has done earlier, but rather lingers in the hallway, and through ellipsis and progressively darker lighting, the passing of time is marked. Extremely little dialogue is uttered in the film, with the exception of hasty conversation at night—as Sylvain is in the habit of interrogating his taciturn mother about sex and sexuality—often in relation to his deceased father; when Jeanne formally greets her male customers, and lastly brief exchanges of dinner recipes with her neighbor.

The film presents and depicts Jeanne’s routine in great detail, and the same actions are to a large degree repeated every day. In the same way that the film invests a lot of time in establishing Jeanne’s routine, it spends close to the same amount of time on the unraveling of this routine. It is a about halfway through the films’ running time, then, and correspondingly close to halfway through the three days of the film’s diegesis, that Jeanne’s first “mistake” is made, and she finally but unwillingly disrupts the routine she so carefully seems to have organized and imposed on herself1. This first rupture happens as Jeanne during the afternoon of the second day, as usual, goes to put her hard-earned cash in the porcelain soup tureen that stands on her living room table, but forgets to put on the lid, which is her usual habit. Jeanne discovers this mistake later in the evening, as Sylvain gets home from school, and puts the lid back on. And so, throughout the following day—which is the third and last day of the film’s narrative—everything really begins to unravel around Jeanne Dielman and her routine massively falls apart—beginning with an undone button in her robe, shoeshine spilt on the sleeve of her night gown, and then her schedule becomes displaced as she arrives at the post office too early, then at her regular café too late. When she returns to her apartment that afternoon, she discovers that has received a gift from her sister that she barely has time to open before her male client of the day arrives, and she hurriedly hides the gift—a pink nightgown—under her bed, leaving the pair of scissors she opened the parcel with on the dresser.

Here then, for the first time in the film, the camera follows Jeanne into the bedroom with the customer, and the film finally reaches it’s climax—literally—as Jeanne unexpectedly has an orgasm. Also for the first time, the camera is positioned above Jeanne, who is laying on her back on the bed, with the client on top of her. The film then cuts to Jeanne sitting in front of the mirror in her bedroom, which reflects the customer dozing off on her bed, and as Jeanne finishes buttoning her blouse and straightening her skirt, she gets up, grabs the pair of scissors, exits the frame, then suddenly reappears in the mirror frame as she plunges towards the man, stabbing the scissors in his throat and consequently kills him. In the next and last scene, Jeanne quietly sits in the dark by her dining table, vis-à-vis the soup tureen, for seven whole minutes—hands and clothes bloodied.

The film operates with several codes and elements from the Hollywood family melodrama’s vernacular and structure, which is perhaps signified to the fullest through the film’s mise-en-scène, and corresponds to Thomas Elsaesser’s claim that the “melodrama is iconographically fixed by the claustrophobic atmosphere of the bourgeois home and/or the small-town setting” (62). Interestingly then, in Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles, even the title of the film, which gives the full address of the protagonist, fences the character in, and defines her within a very limited and ineluctable sphere: the bourgeois home. For Elsaesser, this signifies the iconographical framework of the melodrama, but as I shall argue in the following, it is also the iconological framework in Jeanne Dielman, that the film explores and critiques from different angles.

Inside her apartment, Jeanne is surrounded by quotidian objects, each assigned a very specific function, not to mention a specific place in the apartment where it belongs, as Jeanne meticulously and compulsively puts everything back in the right place after having used the object, so that the dish used for breakfast is immediately cleansed before re-using the same dish for lunch, and the tote bag is emptied and hung up on the hook above the sink after grocery shopping. In a similar way, Jeanne Dielman has her own defined place in the apartment where she belongs—the kitchen, where she spends most of her time seated at the kitchen table preparing meals, or standing by the stove waiting for potatoes to boil or coffee to brew. Also confirming Jeanne’s designated place in the kitchen is the color schema of the film, which operates with a palette of grays, greens, browns and blues, and Jeanne too becomes a part of this mise-en-scène when she puts on her blue and gray checkered kitchen apron and consequently in a chameleon-like way becomes a completely integrated part of the environment—the kitchen sphere, from which she cannot be separated but is completely absorbed. However, not only does the mise-en-scène define Jeanne Dielman within this atmosphere, but as we have seen, the cinematography too. Jeanne is constantly in the frame in medium close-up throughout the film’s running time, with the exception of the moments when she moves between rooms. In this sense, the film is doubly confirming Jeanne’s role within the four walls of her home, both through the camera framing, and with the mise-en-scène. Together, these elements underline the extremely defined boundaries of her existence.

The films’ use of excess is another element of the film that corresponds to the melodrama, and in Jeanne Dielman this is first and foremost an excess of time signified through repeated gestures, actions, and routine. As we have seen, the film uses diegetic time synchronically with real time, and scenes that would normally only be referenced or hinted to as an off-screen event in a commercial Hollywood melodrama, is instead played out from beginning till end—then recycled and accumulated, such as the preparing of meals, doing the dishes, drinking a cup of coffee, et cetera. Elsaesser explains that in the melodrama there is: “an intensified symbolization of everyday actions, the heightening of the ordinary gesture and a use of setting and decor so as to reflect the characters’ fetishist fixations” (56). In Jeanne Dielman it is this strict routine and schedule that functions as the “fetishist fixation” of Jeanne in the film, and consequently the intensification and accumulation of these “ordinary gestures” presses the narrative and the character towards as resolution, as her surroundings and routine will become increasingly problematic and suffocating, (elements which will be further explored when discussing the film’s ending in later parts of the essay).

Jeanne Dielman and pastiche
As we understand how Jeanne Dielman employs much of the structure and vernacular of the melodrama, it is however clear that the film is not a typical or conventional melodrama in itself, as it displaces and negates much of the generic conventions of the genre or mode. Ivone Margulies in her book Nothing Happens, has articulated Jeanne Dielman’s appropriation of the melodrama as such:
Jeanne Dielman continuously evokes the feeling that its narrative spreads over, selects and recombines elements of another, fully constituted narrative. The film seems to stretch over a conventional narrative and to displace its melodramatic affect, otherwise conspicuously absent, into banal and mundane gestures. At times, an action like brushing shoes, or waiting for water to boil for coffee, seems to take on the dramatic intensity of one of those incidents in a 40’s Hollywood melodrama when someone slaps someone’s face or waits anxiously for a lover (84).

As becomes evident with this quote, there does not exist any specific pre-text for the pastiche, but rather a whole decade of Hollywood melodramas. In this sense, the nature of Jeanne Dielman as a pastiche must be characterized as highly palimpsestic, as it is layered over a whole subgenre of melodramas—the family and domestic melodramas, by appropriating certain elements of the melodrama such as the bourgeois milieu, the female heroine in a claustrophobic setting, and her repressed sexuality, while other elements are negated or displaced like the excess of emotion, the negation of melos, and more. In this sense, the film can be understood as a generic pastiche of the family/domestic Hollywood melodrama, as it pastiches the framework of the melodrama more than quoting any specific film. In addition, I will here suggest that the film is a simulacral pastiche: a copy with no original, which effectively allows the film to simultaneously establish a strong relationship with the melodrama, while also critiquing and subverting it, as it is neither too close nor too distant from it. Thus, in concordance with Richard Dyer’s assertion that: “pastiche reminds us that a framework is a framework” (177), Jeanne Dielman highlights both the qualities that correspond to, or negates the melodrama, and the framework and structure of the melodrama itself becomes important because the pastiche must always remind its audience that it is one step removed from that which it pastiches.

If we consider the film a generic (simulacral) pastiche of the Hollywood family/domestic melodrama, perhaps pastiche as it is utilized in this context lies closer to the postmodernist definition of the term as advocated by Frederic Jameson, who places the pastiche close to the parody (Dyer 157), like Jeanne Dielman here seems to have chosen the family melodrama as its “generic cliché” (Margulies 85). For example, elements that points towards parody are: the constant allusions to the Freudian Oedipal-conflict, as Elsaesser points out was employed extensively in the Hollywood family melodrama (58). In Jeanne Dielman, this element is close to being ironical and comical, like how the relationship between Jeanne and Sylvain—mother and son—is articulated through overt references to the Oedipal drama, as when Sylvain expresses anger towards his deceased father for using his phallic “sword” on his mother, and the question of the (law of the) father and patriarchy becomes central, as Sylvain’s relation to his mother is fundamentally characterized by his oscillating between wanting to be like, or unlike, his father (Nowell-Smith 71). As the film echoes the structure of the melodrama and plays with our expectations towards the genre as suggested by Margulies, the overt emphasis on the Oedipal conflict seems like a fundamentally parodical element of the film. In this sense, the film seems to be masquerading itself as a melodrama, which is to say that the film ironically poses as a melodrama while at the same time is clearly aware that it is not, which it signals through employing several aspects of the melodramatic framework and vernacular, while at the same time exaggerating some of these aspects, while displacing or negating yet others. And so, by making a detour to photography and the artist Cindy Sherman, I will illustrate and exemplify in what way Jeanne Dielman is a parodical and simulacral pastiche of the melodramatic genre or mode.

Cindy Sherman developed a series of photographs named Untitled Film Stills in the mid-1970’s, in which she poses in front of the camera dressed up in costumes, imitating conventional female stereotypes in Hollywood films where the housewife-character from the melodrama recurs. However, these photographs are not replicas of any pre-existing film (stills), they rather play with the memory and familiarity of the audience with the melodrama, by operating with a clearly recognizable iconography. Like Jeanne Dielman then, Cindy Sherman’s Film Stills never refer to any specific film, actor, or character, but the composition of the images, and the mise-en-scène is fundamentally recognizable—much like a déja-vu—so that the question of the referent will always be evoked. However, there is no specific referent in existence, and the images rather exist as monadic signs. I would assert that this is also the case with Jeanne Dielman, which through its agency of being a generic and simulacral pastiche is heavily referencing the melodrama, but to pinpoint specifically what it pastiches becomes difficult, as there is no single scene, line of dialogue, or part of the mise-en-scène which implies a referent, or an original. Instead, it is the memory of the melodrama that is evoked in the spectator, from seeing the pastiche, and experiencing a déja-vu.

Critiquing melodrama from the inside-out and the outside-in

As a simulacral pastiche of the melodrama, Jeanne Dielman draws attention to its structure and framework by negating or displacing several elements of the melodrama, while enhancing yet others. In this sense, by employing the structure and vernacular of the melodrama, Jeanne Dielman succeeds in critiquing the genre or mode, both from the inside-out as well as from the outside-in.

Remembering that Jeanne Dielman is an “avant-garde” and “modernist” film, we understand that this critique and foregrounding of the film’s structure and technique is in large part inherent to its “avant-gardist”/“modernist” nature, and that this critique will be directed towards the institutions and definitions of established practice, as well as negating the dominant cinema (Smith 399). In this context, the Hollywood family melodrama is the dominant cinema institution that is criticized. One element of critique in Jeanne Dielman is expressed via negating conventions of Hollywood film, which first of all is manifest with the length of the film, which is more than double the length of the mainstream Hollywood film. Elsaesser points out how the Hollywood melodramas needed to be compressed as a “commercial necessity” (52). As an avant-garde film, however, the same commercial conditions and/or conventions do not apply, and in Jeanne Dielman, the length of the film is foregrounded to accentuate the false narrative efficiency of the family melodramas, as they leave out the very elements that Jeanne Dielman chooses to highlight—namely the platitude and banality of the protagonist’s routine, life, and existence.

The cinematography is a further critique of the conventional film “language” in Hollywood melodramas, as it refuses to film Jeanne in close-up, or show her point of view. Instead, we see her in medium close-up, in an open frame, and are never allowed her point of view. Another element the film critiques and subverts is the film’s use of excess. However the excess of time in Jeanne Dielman does not correspond directly to the melodrama’s excess of pathos and action, or even melos, it is cosequently a fundamentally different use of the pattern of excess than found in the conventional family melodrama. This gap as well as others, between the melodrama and Jeanne Dielman as an avant-garde film, opens up for a critical discourse of the melodrama, and it is especially the ending of the film that have sparked fruitful discussions of the film in film theory.

Feminist and political critique
Geoffrey Nowell-Smith in his article “Minnelli and Melodrama” defines the melodrama as a fundamentally bourgeois form—made for and by the bourgeoisie—creating a sphere where no social power exists and where characters can really only occupy the middle ground (71). Jeanne Dielman both incorporates and foregrounds this class construct and its relationship with the melodrama as a generic pastiche. The claustrophobic framework of class and genre conventions that belong to the realm of melodrama becomes accentuated in the film’s denouement, and questions whether a happy ending is really possible according to the genre or mode. In the elongated ending of the film, which starts with the protagonist’s mishaps and miscalculations and further accelerates into a total disintegration of her routine and schedule, the narrative slowly presses towards a resolution as Jeanne’s ineluctable situation with a life consisting of—and dominated by—quotidian objects and strict routine has finally crowded in on her, becoming more and more complicated and excessive. Ernst Bloch discusses the happy ending in relation to capitalist and socialist societies in his book The Principle of Hope, and writes:
“The consciousness reaches the other side in a mediated way, enters into the struggle for the happy end, which already senses itself, almost announces itself in the dissatisfaction with what is available. The discontented person then sees all at once how bad capitalist conditions are and how urgently the socialist beginnings need him” (444).

Here, Bloch’s writings can be transferred to Jeanne Dielman who signifies “the discontented person,” dissatisfied with what is available for her within the capitalist-bourgeois sphere she inhabits, and therefore already envisioning a “happy ending” for herself—even if it might be in despite of herself. In addition, the feminist text of the film adds another dimension to the dissatisfaction of Jeanne Dielman, underlining her repressed situation, as she is probably forced into prostitution to make money in a society that defines her role within the domestic sphere where her capitalist responsibility is to consume goods, but not participate in the profit-making side of capitalism. Instead, as a widow with modest means whose first obligation is to take care of her son and run a representative household, not being able access the male-dominated job market freely, has had to find alternative ways of earning money: hence prostitution. Jayne Loader describes her as such: “[Jeanne] is presented as an automaton, geared for maximum efficiency and functioning perfectly, a victim of both the domestic science movement and the petit-bourgeois Belgian culture that produced her” (330).

In the essay “Classical Hollywood film and melodrama” E. Ann Kaplan writes: “for feminists, melodramas open up space prohibited by the so-called classical realist film text, which is restricted to oppressive patriarchal norms” (278). Here then, it becomes interesting to consider how various feminist critics have interpreted the ending of the film differently, and how they evaluate to what degree Jeanne Dielman “opens up space.” Feminist critics Jayne Loader and Claire Johnston represent two opposite poles in their evaluation and interpretation of the film with its ending. Johnston approaches Jeanne Dielman from a semantic and psychoanalytic point of view in her essay “Towards a Feminist Film Practice: Some Theses,” which builds on Laura Mulvey’s essay “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema,” and asserts that the film signifies a repressed sexuality with the main character, which in the ending erupts like a parapraxis in the moment of jouissance. For Johnston, the murder of the male client functions as an “annulment” of this pleasure and takes place to restore the symbolic (patriarchal) order (326), and she further evaluates that this ending has positive connotations for feminism, as it has succeeded in underlining the artificiality of the patriarchal language and the Symbolic Order (326).

In contrast to Johnston, who summa summarum evaluated the film and its ending as a successful critique of the dominant patriarchal cinematic language, Loader in her essay “Jeanne Dielman: Death in Installments” reads the same ending as a capitulation to the same patriarchal language, by turning to violence in the film’s ending. As Loader points out, both Jeanne and Sylvain are victims in this film, but as Jeanne willingly accepts her victimized position she is consequently responsible for the victimization of her son, through conserving the traditional patriarchal values (333). Therefore, the murder cannot be a total act of liberation for the character, because it does not express a rebellion towards patriarchy per se. Instead, for Loader, the murder symbolizes the monstrosity of Jeanne, as she is willing to go to extremes to have autonomy in the only sphere possible: the home (334).

A third reading of the film’s ending, then, is done by Ivone Margulies in her book Nothing Happens. Margulies is fundamentally skeptical towards psychoanalytic readings of the film, as it for her seems dangerous to assume that the unconscious of the character can be made “cinematically visible,” and further warns against reducing the film to its climactic murder scene (95). Instead, Margulies reads the murder as a narrative necessity, as the film is using a narrative cliché which demands a resolution (98). However, for Margulies it is impossible to argue either for or against whether “Jeanne acts through a monotonous, routine, nonintelligent movement – automatically – or instead of her own will – autonomously” (99). Important to remember then, is Linda Williams explanation that “the female hero [in melodrama] often accepts a fate that the audience at least partially questions” (Williams in Margulies, 1996, 85).

Perhaps these various interpretations of the ending will always co-exist, in addition to possible other readings. In this sense, characterizing the ending as either happy or unhappy is difficult, if not impossible, as the film oscillates between the two, and therefore occupies the same middle ground where Nowell-Smith places the characters of the melodrama, with the lack of social power to go beyond its determined framework, even if the dream of achieving a happy end, as Bloch suggests, will always be present. Therefore, according to the genre conventions of the melodrama, the protagonist exists within an overdetermined situation, fenced in by the social, political, and economical framework of the (petite) bourgeoisie, that forces the protagonist to realize what is on the other side of the fence: the happy ending—and pushes the protagonist into a struggle for it—while at the same time disallowing the protagonist to fully achieve this happy ending, but instead allowing for an unhappy happy ending—the middle ground between the two alternatives.


Having highlighted the different levels of aesthetic and political critique at work in Jeanne Dielman, it becomes interesting to consider the film in relation to the heavily influential essay by Narboni and Comolli from 1969, contemporary with the film itself. For Comolli and Narboni, all cinema was inherently ideological, or an expression of the dominant ideology. The question was only to what extent the film was aware of this fact itself, and how it approached the ideological system it functioned within. According to this idea, the authors developed a system of categories and arranged films according to their (critical) approach to the dominant ideology.

As Jeanne Dielman operates with an ideological critique on (at least) two levels—both politically and aesthetically—or on the level of the “signified” and “signifier,” as Comolli and Narboni writes, the category (b) seems to summarize neatly the potential of critique inherent in Jeanne Dielman. According to Comolli and Narboni, for a film to belong to this category, the film must engage in a double action, attacking the ideological assimilation of the film on two fronts, namely on the level of both the signifier and signified. The latter here means “dealing directly with a political subject” (816), which Jeanne Dielman quite frankly does through tackling both a feminist and (bourgeois) political subject-matter. On the level of the signifier, it is an attack of the dominant form, which is implied, and which we also have seen that Jeanne Dielman does, through its pastiching and appropriating the melodrama, while at the same time critiquing this genre or mode from within.

And so, via this iconographic and iconological analysis which has investigated the Hollywood family melodrama’s vernacular and framework and its liaison with the avant-garde film Jeanne Dielman, I hope to have illustrated how the film ultimately succeeds in analytically critiquing the melodrama genre or mode—from both the outside and inside—by employing certain tropes and structural codes of the melodrama, while at the same time subverting and negating several of these same elements. Reading the film as a simulacral and generic pastiche of the melodrama, the relationship between the melodrama and Jeanne Dielman allows for an understanding of how the film can be defined as a copy with no original. Finally, by pastiching and appropriating elements from the melodrama, the film opens up an arena for several layers of critique, both on an aesthetical level, as well as on a political level in relation to the film’s ambiguous ending, which ultimately illustrates how the film corresponds to the category (b) of Comolli and Narboni’s ideological classification system.

Bloch, Ernst. The Principle of Hope. Vol. 1. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1995.
Brooks, Peter. The Melodramatic Imagination. New Haven, CT: Yale University
Press, 1995.
Comolli, Jean Louis, and Jean Narboni. "Cinema/Ideology/Criticism."
Film Theory and Criticism. Eds. Leo Braudy and Marshall Cohen. Sixth ed. vols. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1969/1989.
Dyer, Richard. Pastiche: Knowing Imitation. New York: Routledge, 2007.
Elsaesser, Thomas. "Tales of Sound and Fury: Observations on the Family
Melodrama." Home Is Where the Heart Is. Ed. Christine Gledhill. vols. London: British Film Institute, 1987.
Fowler, Cathy. "Chantal Akerman." The Oxford Guide to Film Studies.
Eds. John Hill and Pamela Church Gibson. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998.
Greenberg, Clement. "Avant-Garde and Kitsch." Art and Culture. Critical Essays.
Boston: Beacon Press, 1961.
Johnston, Claire. "Towards a Feminist Film Practice: Some These."
Movies and Methods. An Anthology. Ed. Bill Nichols. Vol. 2. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1985.
Kaplan, E. Ann. "Classical Hollywood Film and Melodrama." The Oxford Guide to
Film Studies. Eds. John Hill and Pamela Church Gibson. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998.
Krauss, Rosalind. Cindy Sherman 1975 – 1993. New York: Rizzoli International
Publications, 1993.
Loader, Jayne. "Jeanne Dielman: Death in Installments." Movies and Methods.
An Anthology. Ed. Bill Nichols. Vol. 2. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1985.
Margulies, Ivone. Nothing Happens: Chantal Akerman's Hyperrealist Everyday.
Durham and London: Duke University Press, 1996.
Nowell-Smith, Geoffrey. "Minnelli and Melodrama." Home Is Where the Heart Is.
Ed. Christine Gledhill. London: British Film Institute, 1987.
Pravadeli, Veronica. Performance, Rewriting, Identity. Chantal Akerman's
Postmodern Cinema. Torino: Otto Editore, 2000.
Smith, Murray. "Modernism and the Avant-Gardes." The Oxford Guide to Film
Studies. Eds. John Hill and Pamela Church Gibson. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998.


Unknown said...

It kills me to this day that I still have yet to see this film.

Chuck W said...

On a short list of my favorite films of all time, Jeanne Dielman would easily make it into the top 5. That's all I'm saying, really.

Excellent analysis, Maria. Admittedly, the analysis was far too rich and rewarding for such pithy praise, but that's all I got right now; much of this still needs to gestate. But I am seriously feeling the praise and adulation for this thing -- to the point of re-watching the film in order to better soak in your argument.

And for the record, I would kidnap a small child and hold him for ransom to get an opportunity to see this in theaters. Maybe it'll come to my neck of the woods once that print makes its run through larger, more metropolitan areas.

Maria Fosheim Lund said...

Thank you, Chuck!
I actually get to see the film at Film Forum tonight! Ah, the pleasure of living in NYC...

Brandon Colvin said...

Chuck, if it comes to Nashville, I'm going with you.

I'm very sad that I have never seen this film.

Chuck W said...

Meanwhile, some of us are trapped in Kentucky, and have to choose between seeing stuff like Hotel for Dogs or The Unborn.

Oh, waitaminute, all that middle-brow Oscar Bait JUST NOW came to KY.

I'm so jealous of you New Yorkers!

Brandon Colvin said...


I reread your analysis and I must say that it grew in stature the second time around. Really excellent work.