This Isn't A Novel, This Is A Film. A Film Is Life: Weekend (1967)

My last review of a Godard film was less than positive.  I find the director to be more pretentious and less accessible than he has been in previous decades and appears to have no concern with making any sort of relationship with his viewers.  This problem appears to have really occurred within the past two decades and only seems to worsen with each of his subsequent films.  With that in mind, there was a time when he was a master of non-linear cinema that pushed the envelopes of the profane image in film and what political purposes a piece of cinema could provide.  Weekend, one of Godard's more difficult to obtain films, and perhaps his most curious works.  I would by no means place it above my personal favorite Alphaville, nor would I say it is better than Breathless or Contempt, however, it would most certainly find itself jostling for the fourth or fifth spot on a list of his key works.  At this point in Godard's rather controversial career, he had yet to have fallen completely out of regard to many critics and had one of his more respected followings second only to his heightened fame during the French New Wave.  Politically speaking, at this point in his career the outspoken filmmaker was mastering his Marxist heavy voice, one that was at times critical of the contempt directed at the bourgeois, while also being completely aware of the legitimate suffering faced by many foreigners and working class persons of Paris during the late 60's.  In a fashion that could be called Godardian in its creation, the director manages to take what we assume to be a comedy for a better portion of the film and completely drop it on its head, ultimately becoming a dark horror film about societal disconnect and a literal man eat man mentality that emerged with the obsession with consumerism that popped up in the mid-1900's.  If we were to take this solely on its political ideologies and how the narrative pokes fun at French history in order to advance his point, this would be Godard's masterpiece, however, it lacks a complete character evolution that has become so integral to the filmmaker.  To be fair though, the character count in this film is quite large and he does manage to make each person interact substantially with the world around him and for that Godard should be praised.  Ultimately, Weekend is a film that exudes the temperament and concerns of late sixties commentaries while still managing to possess a timelessness, perhaps the most Godard thing about each of his films.

Weekend, for what contextual narrative it possesses, focuses on a bickering married couple known as the Durands.  There is Corinne (Mireille Darc) a soft-spoken housewife who may or may not partake in bizarre sexual encounters in her free time and Roland (Jean Yanne) an explosively angry man who clearly suffers from impotent rage, something he takes out on various individuals throughout the film.  The Durand's are attempting to make it through the French countryside to make it to Corinne's dying father with the intent of racking up a huge inheritance.  However, the two also have the intention of killing one another in order to reap the money for themselves and each of their respective lovers.  The tension that results from such underlying confrontations influences how they engage with the various characters they meet on their pseudo-pilgrimage.  The people they encounter range from the mundane, such as two politically fueled garbagemen to a Mozart praising pianist who claims to be the worst musician alive, as well as the completely absurd as is the case with a man who claims to be the love child of Alexander Dumas and God or the ditsy version of Emily Bronte and her mentally challenged friend Tom Thumb.  A large portion of the interactions within the film end in rather violent means often in shootouts, wrecks, and even incineration, clearly the result of the couples unfulfilled desire to murder one another.  Not only are these interactions clearly frustrating to both Corinne and Roland, they also prove as time wasting endeavors that ultimately mean that they are unable to meet up with Corrine's father and obtain their inheritance.  This failure leads to the couple running into a group of cannibals that eventually kill Roland and cook his body, along with that of other people and a pig, making the statement on Roland's character blatant.  After a seemingly inexplicable shootout between feuding rebels Corrine is depicted returning to the cannibal camp and engaging in a meal, one that includes the flesh of Roland stating that she will eat more of him in a little bit.

It would be easier to comment on what Godard does not comment on in this film than what he does decide to criticize.  It is clear throughout the narrative that the controversial director intends to poke fun at bourgeois privilege, Marxist revolutionaries, guerilla warfare, capitalist frivolity, neo-classicism and racial pride amongst other things.  Furthermore, as is always the case with Godard he clearly intended to deconstruct the notion of cinematic language, so much so that he breaks from his traditional modernist leanings into the post-modern realm and breaks the fourth wall by allowing for the characters to acknowledge their own presence within the film, going so far as to note that they only meet crazy people within the film.  I could go into detail about each of these notions within Weekend, but I am far more inclined to discuss how influenced Godard was by video and television production within this film specifically.  First off, Godard's choice of Darc and Yanne as lead actors reflects his preoccupation with the still new form of media as both of the actors were well regarded for their roles on television by this time in the sixties, but this is only relative to what serves as a stylistic component to his entire film.  Composed as a series of vignettes, Weekend often fades to black inexplicably and repeatedly, something closely associated with cutting to commercials in television.  The genius here comes when Godard simply cuts to more footage of the film.  To Godard, Weekend, film in general, and society as a whole existed in a vacuum of commercialism and television was simply the newest venue with which to tap into the capitalist venture.  With this notion in mind it is somewhat easier to understand where Godard is going with the various diatribes portrayed in the film, almost nonsensical in composition, these various commentaries reflect the fast-based and often jarring style of commercials during television breaks, each does not necessarily preceed or proceed the other, yet they all exist within the same vein of trying to influence the subconscious to desire a particular product, in the case of Godard, to adhere to a particular ideology.  However, as Godard was clever enough to make many of the commentaries contradictory, as is the case with commercially fueled capitalist outputs.  Nothing coexists with the world of Weekend, it is a fabrication to our own world of capitalism, in which no two ideologies can exist simultaneously, because to do so would ruin the competitiveness inherent to the practice.

Key Scene: The traffic jam tracking shot seen is almost incomprehensible in its magnitude and the payoff is well worth the wait.

I was lucky enough to see this a few days ago at a local theater, however, for most people this film had existed in a region lock trap of inaccessibility.  Fortunately, as of a two days ago the film was announced as an upcoming title for The Criterion Collection and should prove to be a great purchase.

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