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SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.66:1 Widescreen
  • French PCM Mono
  • English subtitles
  • 1 Disc
FEATURES
  • Autour de ďJeanne Dielman,Ē a 69-minute documentaryóshot by actor Sami Frey and edited by Agnes Ravez and Akermanómade during the filming of Jeanne Dielman
  • New interviews with Chantal Akerman and cinematographer Babette Mongolte
  • Excerpt from ďChantal Akerman par Chantal Akerman,Ē a 1997 episode of the French television program Cinťma de notre temps
  • Interview with Akermanís mother, Natalia Akerman
  • Archival television interview excerpt featuring Chantal Akerman and star Delphine Seyrig
  • Saute ma ville (1968), Akermanís first film, with an introduction by the director
  • A booklet featuring an essay by film scholar Ivone Margulies

Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles

Blu-ray
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Chantal Akerman
1975 | 201 Minutes | Licensor: Cinematheque royale de Belgique

Release Information
Blu-ray | MSRP: $39.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #484
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Release Date: May 9, 2017
Review Date: May 4, 2017

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SYNOPSIS

A singular work in film history, Chantal Akermanís Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles meticulously details, with a sense of impending doom, the daily routine of a middle-aged widow (Delphine Seyrig)ówhose chores include making the beds, cooking dinner for her son, and turning the occasional trick. In its enormous spareness, Akermanís film seems simple, but it encompasses an entire world. Whether seen as an exacting character study or one of cinemaís 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.


PICTURE

Chantal Akermanís Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles receives a Blu-ray upgrade and is presented on a dual-layer disc in its original aspect ratio of 1.66:1. The 1080p/24hz high-definition presentation comes from a new 2K restoration, which in turn was scanned in 4K from the original 35mm camera negative.

Criterionís original DVD used an older standard-definition master so any high-definition presentation would have more than likely been an improvement but thankfully we get more than the minimum and receive a fresh, clean, and very filmic looking image. I admit to being a little bit disappointed to see Criterion has stuck the 201-minute film and all of its supplements on one disc, but I was pleased to see there didnít appear to be any large, appalling side effects. That said, there are a couple of little short-comings that may (or may not) be related: shadow delineation in some of the filmís darker scenes is limited and grain may not be as tight and fine as some of Criterionís best presentations, but in the case of the latter grain at least doesnít look like a blocky mess. Fine object detail has improved drastically over the previous DVD, best shown in that cross-hatching pattern on Jeanneís housecoat, which disappeared and shimmered on the DVD, and I found colour saturation to be far cleaner as well. On that point, though, I should note that the colours do look a bit darker here in comparison to the DVD, but Iíd say that they look a more natural in comparison to the DVD, which does look overly bright and boosted.

Though I noticed a spec in a couple of places the restoration work has cleaned up a great deal. I think there is also more image around the frame in comparison to the DVD, but I only noticed this by accident: about one-hour-and-eleven-minutes in you can make out a boom mic on the right hand side of the screen (7th screen grab) which doesnít appear on the DVD. For me this wasnít a huge deal (plus my daughter is the one that pointed it out to me, I didnít even notice initially) but itís there.

There are some notable short-comings but in the end I find them minor and on the whole itís a really strong presentation. After having the heavily digitized DVD for so long itís nice to finally get a clean, more film-like presentation and itís well worth upgrading to this edition for the image alone.

8/10

All Blu-ray screen captures come from the source disc and have been shrunk from 1920x1080 to 900x506 and slightly compressed to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.

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AUDIO

The film has a simple but very intriguing sound design, made up mostly of everyday sound effects, like heels clacking on the floor as Jeanne moves through her apartment or a bustling city street, though often times these effects come off exaggerated. Dialogue is minimal, spread out pretty far throughout the film. In all, though, the LPCM 1.0 mono track works very well for the film. Fidelity is surprisingly strong and there is a fair amount of range there as well. Sound quality is clean and despite there being some obvious background noise during the filmís quieter moments thereís no other instances of obvious damage. Itís a very suiting, very clean presentation.

7/10

SUPPLEMENTS

Criterion ports everything from their previous DVD edition over to their new Blu-ray release. First up again is 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 mainly features 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 pushes for a direct answer on the hair brushing 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 comprised of 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. I initially didnít care for this feature when I watched it on the old DVD (Iím going to blame it on being a new dad and my patience being thin at the time) but have come around to it now. As part of the series Akerman agreed to make an episode for the show around one filmmaker. When she discovered all the filmmakers she would consider doing had already been covered she jokingly said she could do one about herself. The producers agreed. Now locked in Akerman reads her treatment which ends up being about her trying to come up with a segment and what she wants to reveal about herself. It gets a little biographical, covering how her heritage probably influences her work and how she sees her work. It irritated me originally but coming back to it I found it funny and insightful.

Moving on the next feature 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 unglamorous 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. As a bonus the film has been restored, looking significantly better in comparison to how it looked on the previous DVD, and it is presented in 1080p high-definition. Like the DVD it is also presented in the aspect ratio of 1.66:1.

Criterion still includes a booklet containing the same essay by Ivone Margulies found with the old release, offering some insight into the film and discussing some of Akermanís other films. The booklet is more-or-less laid out the same way, images places in different places or slightly different images used instead. The essay, as far as I can tell, is exactly the same between both editions.

Overall, all these years later, itís still an excellent set of features, offering a fairly thorough examination of Akermanís work and Jeanne Dielman.

9/10

CLOSING

Packed with the same supplements found on the DVD and a fresh, brand new video presentation itís a terrific release that comes with a very high recommendation, especially for those that already own that previous DVD.


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