Among the many contradictions that accompany the production and reception of the arts, especially those arts that have to assert themselves on the market, this one is perhaps the most beautiful: that, on the one hand, the critics and the more demanding part of the public demand of a work , that it was new and original, also willingly stubborn, provocative, nothing that served the general consensus.
And that, on the other hand, as many people as possible have to agree on this work in order for a book to be a success or for a film to bring in seven to nine-figure production sums.
The critics counteract this contradiction by acknowledging bestseller lists and box office results, but declaring them irrelevant when making their judgment - and for this reason alone they produce the next contradiction as soon as they take part in critics' surveys in which it is intended to clarify which obstinate and which general agreement as many as possible can agree on this breaking work.
The editors of the British film magazine Sight and Sound have always been smart enough to see the paradox and cinephile enough to do it anyway – as defined by film historian Frieda Grafe, who once wrote that cinema lovers prefer lists produce than that they work off non-revisable aesthetic judgments.
Every ten years since 1952, Sight and Sound has polled critics around the world for the best work in film history - and over the decades the list has become sadder: It won Orson Welles' Citizen Kane, from 1952 to 2002, again and again “, which meant that nothing worth mentioning had happened since 1941, the year in which the film was made.
Ten years ago, a belated youth revolt, Hitchcock's "Vertigo", a feature film from 1958, won. And that's why the jury this year can be praised for their boldness: They actually agreed on a film from 1975 - Chantal Akerman's "Jeanne Dielman , 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles”.
The fact that it is a woman's film need not be the decisive criterion if it weren't for such a stark contrast to the men Welles and Hitchcock, who constantly had to show the audience
how original and brilliant they were.
Chantal Akerman simply watches, seemingly unmoved, as her heroine, a housewife and part-time prostitute, washes herself, breads schnitzel, and kills a lover.
A cruel film: hardly any cuts, hardly any dialogue, rarely a smile.
Not a film to agree on.
On which the critics agreed.