FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Hooking, Breaking Friendships, Cross-Dressing and, Above All, Delphine Seyrig

Chantal Akerman’s Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles, depicts three days in the life of a middle-class Belgian widow (Delphine Seyrig) with a teenage son (Jan Decorte). In as much as Jeanne supports herself by part-time prostitution in an otherwise routine life, this is a realist movie in the sense that Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler is a realist play; and like Hedda Gabler, Akerman’s peculiarly suspenseful movie concludes with a shock. Delphine Seyrig was a great and intelligent actress. She could play with equal conviction in farce (Buñuel’s Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie), in drama (Renais’ Muriel), and in straight and musical comedy (Truffaut’s Stolen Kisses and Akerman’s Window Shopping).

Delphine Seyrig first came to the world’s attention in 1961 with the release of Alain Resnais’ Last Year At Marienbad, also in a new 2 disc Criterion Collection release. Seyrig played to perfection the elusive and enigmatic A, married (or is she?) to M (Sacha Pitoëff) and pursued by X (Giorgio Albertazzi), through the endless ornate corridors and elaborate formal gardens of a huge Baroque resort hotel.

The film is a more or less faithful adaptation of Alain Robbe-Grillet’s archetypal nouveau roman of the same title (Robbe –Grillet also wrote the screenplay). To say that public opinion about the movie was divided when it opened would be an understatement. Only Antonioni’s L’avventura, which came out the year before, broke more friendships. I once overheard Kenneth Tynan tell Orson Welles he admired Last Year At Marienbad. “Then you are a cunt,” Welles said to him.

Now, with the controversy more or less settled in the movie’s favor, we’re able to appreciate Resnais’ subtle direction,  Seyrig’s balletic poise, Sacha Vierny’s beautiful black & white photography, Charles Mérangel’s mysterious sets, Chanel’s classic costumes and the rich and resonant comedy of the dialogue.

And now for something completely different. Jeffrey Lau’s Chinese Odyssey 2002, set in the Ming Dynasty – which is to say “Long ago and far away…” – tells of the adventures of two royal children, Princess Wushuang (Faye Wong) and the future Emperor Zheng De (Chen Chang), as they plan their escape from the Forbidden City, ruled by the tyrannical Dowager Empress (Rebecca Pan).

Wushuang breaks out first and, disguising herself as a boy, finds refuge at a village inn. There a local thug known as Bully the Kid (Tony Leung), befooled by her appearance, takes her under his protection, thinking the boy will make a perfect match for his sister, Phoenix (Wei Zhao). To quote from the program notes, “ … in one  scene Phoenix, Wushuang and Bully all cross-dress together, with the other two never realizing…”.

Meanwhile, back at the palace…. The director, the stars and the cinematographer (Peter Ngor) had such a good time narrating the absurdly complicated plot, you might be afraid you won’t have as much fun as they did. Trust me, you will.

Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles, two disc set, Belgium, 1975, 201 minutes, the Criterion Collection, $39.98.

Last Year At Marienbad, two disc set, France, 1961, 94 minutes, the Criterion Collection, $39.95.

Chinese Odyssey 2002, Hong Kong, 2002, 90 minutes, Kino International, $24.95.

BEN SONNENBERG is the author of Lost Property: Memoirs & Confessions of a Bad Boy, and the founder/editor of Grand Street. He can be reached at harapos@panix.com.

 

 

 

More articles by:

BEN SONNENBERG is the author of Lost Property: Memoirs & Confessions of a Bad Boy, and the founder/editor of Grand Street. He can be reached at harapos@panix.com.

September 20, 2018
Michael Hudson
Wasting the Lehman Crisis: What Was Not Saved Was the Economy
John Pilger
Hold the Front Page, the Reporters are Missing
Kenn Orphan
The Power of the Anthropocene
Paul Cox – Stan Cox
Puerto Rico’s Unnatural Disaster Rolls on Into Year Two
Rajan Menon
Yemen’s Descent Into Hell: a Saudi-American War of Terror
Russell Mokhiber
Nick Brana Says Dems Will Again Deny Sanders Presidential Nomination
Nicholas Levis
Three Lessons of Occupy Wall Street, With a Fair Dose of Memory
Steve Martinot
The Constitutionality of Homeless Encampments
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
The Aftershocks of the Economic Collapse Are Still Being Felt
Jesse Jackson
By Enforcing Climate Change Denial, Trump Puts Us All in Peril
George Wuerthner
Coyote Killing is Counter Productive
Mel Gurtov
On Dealing with China
Dean Baker
How to Reduce Corruption in Medicine: Remove the Money
September 19, 2018
Bruce E. Levine
When Bernie Sold Out His Hero, Anti-Authoritarians Paid
Lawrence Davidson
Political Fragmentation on the Homefront
George Ochenski
How’s That “Chinese Hoax” Treating You, Mr. President?
Cesar Chelala
The Afghan Morass
Chris Wright
Three Cheers for the Decline of the Middle Class
Howard Lisnoff
The Beat Goes On Against Protest in Saudi Arabia
Nomi Prins 
The Donald in Wonderland: Down the Financial Rabbit Hole With Trump
Jack Rasmus
On the 10th Anniversary of Lehman Brothers 2008: Can ‘IT’ Happen Again?
Richard Schuberth
Make Them Suffer Too
Geoff Beckman
Kavanaugh in Extremis
Jonathan Engel
Rather Than Mining in Irreplaceable Wilderness, Why Can’t We Mine Landfills?
Binoy Kampmark
Needled Strawberries: Food Terrorism Down Under
Michael McCaffrey
A Curious Case of Mysterious Attacks, Microwave Weapons and Media Manipulation
Elliot Sperber
Eating the Constitution
September 18, 2018
Conn Hallinan
Britain: the Anti-Semitism Debate
Tamara Pearson
Why Mexico’s Next President is No Friend of Migrants
Richard Moser
Both the Commune and Revolution
Nick Pemberton
Serena 15, Tennis Love
Binoy Kampmark
Inconvenient Realities: Climate Change and the South Pacific
Martin Billheimer
La Grand’Route: Waiting for the Bus
John Kendall Hawkins
Seymour Hersh: a Life of Adversarial Democracy at Work
Faisal Khan
Is Israel a Democracy?
John Feffer
The GOP Wants Trumpism…Without Trump
Kim Ives
The Roots of Haiti’s Movement for PetroCaribe Transparency
Dave Lindorff
We Already Have a Fake Billionaire President; Why Would We want a Real One Running in 2020?
Gerry Brown
Is China Springing Debt Traps or Throwing a Lifeline to Countries in Distress?
Pete Tucker
The Washington Post Really Wants to Stop Ben Jealous
Dean Baker
Getting It Wrong Again: Consumer Spending and the Great Recession
September 17, 2018
Melvin Goodman
What is to be Done?
Rob Urie
American Fascism
Patrick Cockburn
The Adults in the White House Trying to Save the US From Trump Are Just as Dangerous as He Is
Jeffrey St. Clair - Alexander Cockburn
The Long Fall of Bob Woodward: From Nixon’s Nemesis to Cheney’s Savior
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail