Week End is easily the most bizarre of Jean-Luc Godard’s films. A strange satire rife with paint-blood contrasted with striking real violence, this radical film presents an episodic, loose, audacious storyline that moves from “a mundane phone conversation becom(ing) an absurdly charming musical number, (to) our heroes encounter(ing) fairy-tale characters in the woods, (to) main characters meet(ing) grisly ends at, really, any time at all….(and a) traffic jam-interrupted by Godard’s irrepressible penchant for didactic, elliptical intertitles…(featuring) zoo animals, boats, an occasional picnic, and a hell of a lot of blood (that) the director once famously said, its nothing to worry about: It’s really only red paint” (de Seife).
What we are left with is a sharp satire that breaks many rules of filmmaking. The result is a piece that was relatively divisive to critics. No matter what the opinion, it’s absolutely clear that this film made a striking impact on me.
I thought this film was pretty innovative and amazing – but the caveat is, it is pretty innovative and amazing for what it is. This isn’t a film with a clear linear narrative structure, nor is it a film whose job it is to make the audience feel. As a matter of fact, I think its job is to do quite the opposite, that is, to make the audience aware of their own desensitization and laugh at our own ignorance of what life truly is via his narrative. As the characters are desensitized in the film about everything from traffic to cannibalism to extreme violence to magic, miracles, music, colonialization, exploitation, and even the what little remains of story itself, it is clear our reaction (mirrored by those of our two main protagonists) is meant to be that this is simply a film that is a statement and realize that we shouldn’t look beyond the surface. It exists as a statement through its strange sketches, overt and confounding use of the Godardian jump cut, extreme color, and fictional characters evoking other real-life and fictional characters, and then literally setting fire to everyone and every thing.
Godard said, “if it would have been possible to make the film dirtier pornography, then I would have.” Every frustration he has comes out in this film. Frustration with form and expression, frustration with war, fascism, and violence, frustration with sex, frustration with consumerism. He illustrates every aspect of these frustrations with the world in Weekend, from the senseless, violent slaughter of a pig on camera to a terrifying car accident from which our female protagonist emerges and screams, “my bag! My Hermes bag!” as it burns in the inferno along with several other motorists. The transference of meaning and lens of commentary then transitions to us, the audience. The film begins with a long description of an orgy, and ends with a question – was it a dream or reality? And our character doesn’t know. This statement leads to the literal burning of society in traffic punctuated by miles of bloody car wrecks – sex, violence, frustration, exploitation. The dirtiest pornography that, of course, ends in a literal slaughter and characters feasting on the meat of other characters.
I really enjoyed this film – but the problem with Weekend is that it is what it is… A beautiful museum piece whose ‘end of cinema’ occurs precisely in 1966. It is a commentary on humanity that remains frozen in a specific social time and place, and while it is extremely successful at what it is and we still struggle with the same issues today, it lacks the heartbeat of a narrative that awakens our hearts. But the thing is, to Godard, that is precisely the point.
I read the collected essays that came in the Criterion release book, and they were fantastic studies. Gary Indiana’s analysis breaks down what the film means in its most elemental forms using bookmarks of events to steer his reading of the piece. Bergala’s excerpt from his book feature behind the scenes interviews and rundowns from the cast and crew, and this is a further dissociation from the final product that offers interesting insight into how their performances and choices transferred to the screen (my two most fascinating ones were Darc’s improvisation of the Hermes line and the fact that she was originally slated to do the opening psychoanalysis scene nude and Godard changed his mind last minute so they had to go out and buy her underwear). Finally, Godard’s interview with Jonathan Cott was fascinating. His genius bleeds through what few sentences come straight from his mouth in twenty-five or so answers. It is easy to be mesmerized by the way his mind makes connections as well as his various responses that work on the micro scale of his film, but also the macro scale of his career and his work’s place in and commentary of the world at large. A beautifully curated collection.
I watched Week End on Criterion DVD (#635).