Chantal Akerman’s ‘Jeanne Dielman’ the Greatest Film of All Time

Last week, “Sight and Sound” (an elite magazine published by the British Film Institute which has been in the film polling business since 1952) released their heavily awaited poll results for the top 100 “greatest films of all time” with shocking results.

Chantal Akerman’s masterful Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles stole the number one spot!

According to Laura Mulvey in an article written for BFI, this marks the “first time in 70 years the Sight and Sound poll has been topped by a film directed by a woman—and one that takes a consciously, radically feminist approach to cinema.” And I couldn’t agree more.

I had the privilege of studying Jeanne Dielman with cinema studies scholar and professor Sandy Flitterman-Lewis during my time at Rutgers University. A passionate advocate for including Jeanne Dielman in the curriculum, Sandy has shared her infectious admiration for Chantal’s work with her students for most of her career.

Sandy shared powerful memories with me on the occasion of this marvelous victory:

“I remember those early days when CAMERA OBSCURA introduced information on Chantal: Janet Bergstrom wrote a classic piece on Jeanne Dielman, and Gwen Foster published her Identity and Memory collection. (Note that my essay on Jeanne Dielman and La Souriante Madame Beudet is in Gwen’s book).

Laura came to dinner at my Berkeley (CA) apartment… Later Film Forum (in Manhattan) showed Jeanne Dielman and the “Village Voice” had front page essays by Ruby Rich and J. Hoberman.

Later as I started my job at Rutgers, I insisted on showing Jeanne Dielman in my women and film classes. What a fight we had. And finally there was a week-long event celebrating Jeanne Dielman which we purchased before DVD release.

It’s always been fun to show it in my classes, despite administrative resistance. What vindication!”

What vindication, indeed!

Many thanks to Professor Sandy Flitterman-Lewis and all the film scholars who have fought for recognition of Chantal Akerman’s brilliance all along.

© Dayna Hagewood (12/9/22) — Special for FF2 Media

LEARN MORE/DO MORE

You can order a hard copy of Jeanne Dielman here from Criterion. You can also stream it online with HBO Max.

Click here to read the history of the “Sight and Sound” poll.

To see the full 2022 “Sight and Sound” list, click here.

To read Laura Mulvey’s excellent piece on this triumph, click here.

Check out Professor Sandy Flitterman-Lewis’ books To Desire Differently and New Vocabularies in Film Semiotics as well as this article, “Souvenirs de Chantal.”

CREDITS & PERMISSION

Stills from Jeanne Dielman (staring Delphine Seyrig) courtesy of The Criterion Collection.

Photo of Rutgers Professor Sandy Flitterman-Lewis from 2018 (taken at Baruch College). From Sandy’s website & used with permission.

Tags: 100 Greatest Films of All Time, BFI, Chantal Akerman, feminist film, Jeanne Dielman, Laura Mulvey, Sandy Flitterman-Lewis, Sight and Sound

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Dayna holds a Bachelor of Arts from Rutgers University in English and Cinema Studies with a concentration in Creative Writing. She recently graduated with her Master of Arts in Teaching English. She has taught students spanning grades K-12 and loves encouraging young people to pursue the arts. Dayna enjoys working with FF2 Media because writing about women artists harmonizes her greatest interests. She is passionate about film, literature, and antiquing.
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