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Revisiting Jeanne Dielman: Autour de Jeanne Dielman (2004), Woman Sitting After Killing (2001) and Akerman’s ‘cinéma de ressassement’

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This article revisits Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (1975), seeking to map its nomadic trajectories through different media. I elaborate on Akerman’s notion of a ‘cinéma de ressassement’, a cinema of mulling over or chipping away. Rather than focusing on the film itself, I concentrate on two lesserknown works that explicitly return to Jeanne Dielman, functioning both as works in their own right and as paratexts, revealing the film’s processes in different but corresponding ways: the installation Woman Sitting After Killing, made for the 2001 Venice Biennale, and Autour de Jeanne Dielman, a making-of documentary shot on Portapak by Sami Frey in 1975, edited by Akerman and Agnès Ravez in 2004, and released as a special feature on the Criterion Collection DVD edition of the film. The article contends that these two ‘returns’ to Jeanne Dielman rework the complex temporalities of the film in addition to revisiting its political concerns. Autour de Jeanne Dielman places Jeanne Dielman squarely within a feminist framework through its central positioning of Delphine Seyrig’s feminist discourse. I map the ways in which ressassement exposes the processes of a feminist filmmaking concerned with disrupting ‘chrononormative’ (Elizabeth Freeman) narratives. Building on B. Ruby Rich’s characterization of Akerman’s work as a ‘cinema of correspondence’, ultimately the article asks what counts as productive labour, suggesting that Akerman’s returns to Jeanne Dielman highlight its commitment to feminist and queer failure as a productive working method.
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Keywords: Akerman; Jeanne Dielman; Portapak; Seyrig; chrononormativity; installation; ressassement

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Kings College London

Publication date: September 1, 2019

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  • The Moving Image Review & Art Journal (MIRAJ) is the first international peer-reviewed scholarly publication devoted to artists' film and video, and its contexts. It offers a forum for debates surrounding all forms of artists' moving image and media artworks: films, video installations, expanded cinema, video performance, experimental documentaries, animations, and other screen-based works made by artists. MIRAJ aims to consolidate artists' moving image as a distinct area of study that bridges a number of disciplines, not limited to, but including art, film, and media.
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