It’s 11 p.m. and I just finished watching the greatest movie of all time. Or so it was pegged recently by the British film magazine Sight & Sound.
Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (1975) is the name of the film. Don’t even think about watching it, unless you are addicted to emotional and mental pain.
My man insisted we check it out. After all, he pointed out, it had displaced Vertigo as the greatest movie of all time. Vertigo is a great Alfred Hitchcock movie. The greatest? I’m not so sure. But it was a million times more entertaining than poor Jeanne Dielman.
I can’t recall ever seeing something so unenjoyable. Watching paint dry is definitely more fun. Maybe that was the point of the film about a Belgian woman’s struggles with identify and self-liberation as both a prostitute and a mother.
About an hour into this evening of torture, my man asked the pivotal question: “When is something going to happen?”
“I think this movie is about this woman’s mundane life,” I responded. “I think she is slowly going mad. Just as I am watching it.”
At hour two, my man looked at me again. “Didn’t you say something would happen in this movie?”
“I didn’t say anything. The blurb said on day three of this woman’s life, there is an event. We are only on day two,” I responded.
When hour three dawned, my man yawned loudly and hinted that he might be going to bed.
“Don’t even think about it,” I said. “You forced me to watch this and you’re staying ‘til the bitter end.”
The end was definitely bitter as anyone who struggled through this movie could have predicted. It wasn’t what I would call a “twist.” I know real shockers. I’ve just finished reading The Silent Patient.
Never have I wanted to scream in a non-horror film like I wanted to at this movie: “Get on with it!”
We watched the poor woman kneading raw hamburger into a meatloaf for five minutes. Another five watching her peel potatoes. A good six minutes struggling to make it through the scene where she and her son ate bowls of soup without uttering a word to each other. Then we focused on her back while she washed the dinner and breakfast dishes. We saw that twice! A bath scene lasted at least eight minutes and included several minutes of her washing the tub. We saw the bath once but the tub cleaning twice. And on and on.
Since the greatest film ever is only chosen every 10 years, I suppose the magazine felt it had to do something to acknowledge womankind. So, this was the first firm directed by a woman to ever make it into the top 10, let alone garner the top spot.
I think they could have done better. Surely there have been more entertaining films directed by women in the history of movie making. Lives of quiet desperation might be impactful on those who live them. It’s just not something I – and I guess most other film lovers – want to endure.
Tomorrow I’m picking the film. Maybe Rear Window.