Weekend (1967, Jean-Luc Godard)

“The horror of the bourgeoisie can only be overcome by more horror.”

Godard’s last fiction film (released just a few months after La Chinoise) before May ’68 and the Dziga Vertov Group. It’s an anarchist romp, following an unlikeable couple (who secretly hate each other) on a weekend drive to the girl’s parents’ house to ensure that she gets her inheritance, really an excuse for a series of extended scenes (sometimes using minutes-long shots) of politics and absurdity, all with a bright red/white/blue color scheme that aims to make the film look like an advertisement.

Corinne freaks out:

Before the trip: time out for Corinne (Mireille Darc of some spy movies and commercials) to tell a long, erotic story in a darkened room. I don’t know whether that’s her travel partner Roland in the scene with her – there’s some business I barely got at the beginning where each of them secretly has another partner. Anyway, her story involves a threesome with a married couple featuring a saucer of milk.
“Is this true, or a nightmare?”
“I don’t know.”

Next: the celebrated traffic jam shot, as boorish couple Corinne and Roland (Jean Yanne, star of some Chabrol films) slowly move from left to right, past honking cars stuck in traffic, traveling in the oncoming lane to get ahead. There are cars parked backwards and upside down, a sailboat, animals, a tanker truck, all sorts of absurdity, at the end of which the relieved couple speeds past the huge multiple-fatalities accident that caused it all.

Class Warfare: rich girl (Juliet Berto, a Godard regular before she was a Rivette regular) and peasant tractor driver are in an accident, and she’s just furious that her boyfriend was killed. Corinne and Roland try not to get involved, finally speed away, rich and poor uniting in cursing them (“dirty jews!”).

Faux-tographe:

Almost to her parents’ house, when they pick up a hitchhiker whose boyfriend (Daniel Pommereulle, lead guy’s vacationing buddy in La Collectionneuse) hijacks their car (acting like a lion tamer) and makes them turn around. I already can’t remember what they talk about, but after a bloody car crash, a cool edit causes a hundred sheep to suddenly appear.

Jean-Pierre Leaud is wandering through a field as Saint Just, preaching politics from a book, speaking into the camera more than he’s speaking to the characters. In the next scene he’s a completely different character, a camera-unaware fellow in a phone booth. Roland steals Leaud’s car, and the quest continues.

In a forest now, trying to get directions from Tom Thumb (Yves Alfonso of Made in USA) and Emily Bronte (Blandine Jeanson of La Chinoise), who stick to their fantasy script despite the increasingly violent demands from Roland. Finally he sets Emily on fire.

SHE “It’s rotten of us, isn’t it? We’ve no right to burn even a philosopher”
HE “Can’t you see they’re only imaginary characters?”
SHE “Why is she crying, then?”
HE “No idea. Let’s go.”
SHE: “We’re little more than that ourselves.”

The movie has been self-aware before, and will be again (a passing car asks if they’re in a film or reality). In the forest they walk past “the Italian actors in the co-production.”

“What a rotten film. All we meet are crazy people.”

I lost track of what happened to Leaud’s car, but now they’re hitching rides with trucks. One stops for another extended scene where pianist Paul Gégauff (a screenwriter for Chabrol, Rohmer and Clement) talks about music and plays some Mozart while the couple sits bored in the courtyard.

The music turns very dramatic as they ride with a couple of garbage men (Laszlo Szabo of Passion and Made in USA, and Omar Diop of La Chinoise). Corinne and Roland haul trash as the men eat sandwiches and speak at length, alternately about revolution in Africa and guerrilla race warfare in the west.

Finally home, they kill Corinne’s mom, put her in a car (of course) and set it on fire. It’s a brief scene, showing that the movie has little interest in its makeshift plot-motivator.

But wait, it’s not over. They’re abducted by a machine gun-toting cannibal liberation front (feat. Juliet Berto again) led by Jean-Pierre Kalfon, star of L’Amour Fou. Corinne fits in better than Roland, ends up eating him. End of cinema.

D. Sterritt’s commentary makes me weary with his wall-to-wall sportscaster style, but says some good stuff, that the movie is satirizing consumerism and the manufactured product, the visuals pop-art influenced, the scenes all clearly planned out (not random/improv as some critics suggested). DP Raoul Coutard says: “The driving force behind this film, irrespective of wanting to be innovative in cinema, was to annoy the hell out of the producer.”

M. Asch

The camera is so distant as to almost parody its satiric coolness — from the couple’s balcony, it looks down to the parking lot to see the antlike drivers of a red and a blue-and-white car beat each other savagely after a minor collision. Godard is undisguised in his disgust for what you could call the automotive insulation of contemporary life — a subtle running joke, if you can call it that, is the way that every screaming breakdown ends with Darc and Yanne back in the front seats like nothing happened.

J Hoberman:

Dramatizing homicidal conflict in the context of inexplicable, matter-of-fact social disaster, Godard’s unrelenting, consistently inventive farrago of grim humor, revolutionary rhetoric, coolly staged hysteria, and universal aggression is pure ’68, an art-house analog to its contemporary, George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, and one of four new releases forbidden to Catholics by the National Legion of Decency. The Legion condemned a movie; Godard condemned the civilized world.

Even before Weekend opened in New York, Godard condemned his previous work and even repudiated the medium that nourished him. He briefly abandoned filmmaking — by the time he returned, the revolution was over. Godard has made some first-rate movies since Weekend … But after Weekend, he would never again command an audience, let alone a generation.

Jean Eustache was in the movie – who was he?

Lots of onscreen text and people talking for ages – signs of Godardian things to come.

Buy from Amazon:
Weekend (PAL DVD)

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