In early October, the world community was shaken by the news of the death of a cinema pioneer. In lieu of an obituary, the following “purloined” letter, which will never be read by its recipient, recounts an imaginary (and, therefore, real) encounter and insists on the meaning of this absense.
5 November 2015
On the 3rd of October 2015, your milestone 1975 film Jeanne Dielman, 23, Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles was screened in a tightly packed room in the Greek Film Archive in Athens. I was there; watching it for the first time on the big screen, enthralled. With the kind of tragic irony that only the randomness of reality can orchestrate, two days later, a month ago today, you committed suicide. Since then, I am trying to write an obituary and can’t do it. I finally chose to address you in person, as I should have done when you were still alive, given the admiration that I have felt for your work for so long.
Jeanne Dielman and your other films, fulfill the combined demands of feminism and avant-garde art; the former being encapsulated by the second-wave feminist slogan that “the personal is political” and the latter being the realization that no radical content can be expressed without radical form. The connection between feminist filmmaking and the choice of the avant-garde is not circumstantial. The avant-garde art position claims that you cannot question the dominant order by using its forms, visual and narrative, because it is inscribed in these very forms. Therefore, you can’t truly do feminist filmmaking without questioning the dominant ways of filmmaking. This realization is the hallmark of feminist avant-garde cinema, or rather its conceptual and structural definition. It was then, in the 1970s, that it became a conscious movement;i and your Jeanne Dielman was quite possibly its flagship. ... More