Jeanne Dielman: Film directed by woman picked as best ever
An expert panel has selected a female-directed movie as the best ever made. The British Film Institute’s Sight and Sound survey placed Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles, directed by Chantal Akerman, in first place.
It is the first time a female director’s film has made it into the top ten. The poll, which is conducted every ten years, has drawn flak for its lack of diversity. For 40 years, Citizen Kane by Orson Welles occupied the top slot. Vertigo, a film by Alfred Hitchcock, surpassed it in 2012.
Jeanne Dielman, released in 1975, is the story of a Belgian widow who turns to prostitution to make ends meet, but kills one of her clients. The film runs for almost three and a half hours.
It has been praised as a “masterpiece” and a groundbreaking work of feminist film, despite not being as well known outside of the field of film criticism as past winners. The 65-year-old Belgian director Chantal Akerman passed away in 2015.
The poll’s contributor, writer and film critic Lillian Crawford, called the movie the “essential text” of female cinema.
“Jeanne Dielman isn’t a film that I would say to someone getting into cinema ‘Oh, this is the first film you absolutely must see’,” she told the BBC.
“I think if you’re going to work through the list, maybe do it in reverse order and sort of build towards it, because it’s quite an ask to invite people to see this.
“But in an academic sense and thinking about cinema and encouraging more people to seek out experimental film, films by women, and in terms of the history of feminist cinema, this is absolutely the sort of essential text.”
In an article for the British Film Institute, Laura Mulvey, a professor of film studies at Birkbeck University, called the vote a “sudden shake-up”.
In 2012, Touki Bouki by Djibril Diop Mambéty and Jeanne Dielman, both directed by black filmmakers, were the only two black films to be included on the list.
The quantity and variety of those consulted have grown over time. The best 10 movies of the year were chosen by 1,639 critics, programmers, curators, archivists, and academics.
Vertigo, the previous winner, came in at number two, followed by Citizen Kane at number three.
Fourth place went to Yasujiro Ozu’s Tokyo Story, and fifth place went to Wong Kar Wai’s In the Mood for Love.
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