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Week End (1967)

Weekend, Week-End, Le Week-end, Week-end, un uomo e una donna dal sabato alla domenica

Starring:

Blandine Jeanson

Daniel Pommereulle

Ernest Monzer

Jean Yanne

Jean-Pierre Kalfon

Jean-Pierre Léaud

Mireille Darc

Paul Gégauff

Valérie Lagrange

Virginie Vignon

Yves Afonso

Yves Beneyton

Directed by:

Jean-Luc Godard

Rating: 7/10

Running Time: 100 minutes

UK Certificate: 18

On DVD

Country: France, Italy

After his extraordinary debut in 1960 with ‘À Bout de Souffle’ (or ‘Breathless’), Jean-Luc Godard became one of the leading figures of the French New Wave movement, reinventing the rules of cinema not only from one film to the next, but sometimes even from scene to scene within a single film. ‘Weekend’, his picaresque satire of a greed-fuelled society speeding out of control, came at a moment of transition both for the director and for France itself – for after its release in 1967, Godard declared himself a committed Marxist-Leninist and abandoned conventional avenues of capital investment for his films – and ‘Weekend’ itself captures precisely the spirit of revolution in the air that would lead, one year later, to the student uprisings in Paris.

Corinne (Mireille Darc) and Roland (Jean Yanne), a bourgeois Parisian couple, have plotted together to manipulate and murder their way into a family inheritance (with each also planning secretly to eradicate the other once the money is secured). So one Saturday morning the venal pair set off on a drive to pick up Corinne’s wealthy father from the clinic where he is dying – but the backroads and byways of the French countryside prove to be a strange parallel universe where monied elites and working classes, vacationers and vagabonds, politics and religion, the ancient and the modern, first and third worlds, revolutionaries and the establishment, all collide head-on in a bloody pile-up that marks the end of civilisation itself, as well as the “end of cinema”.

Godard is at pains to outrage and unsettle his viewers with all manner of taboos, including torture, parricide, corpse-robbing, rape, bestiality, and finally cannibalism – because, as one character puts it, “the horror of the bourgeoisie can only be overcome by more horror”. Yet at the same time Godard always keeps the viewer at a cool distance through a series of inventive devices that disrupt all suspension of disbelief. Events are regularly punctuated by oblique, punning titles (a trick borrowed from the surrealist Luis Buñuel’s L’Âge D’Or and Un Chien Andalou). A carjacker (Daniel Pommereulle) proves that he is God by pulling a live rabbit out of the dashboard. A man conducts a telephone conversation in brightly intoned verse, and later a woman bleeding from gunshot wounds sings her final words. Characters claiming to be Tom Thumb and Emily Brontë answer Roland’s request for directions with abstract philosophy and a poetic disquisition on pebbles. A travelling pianist (Paul Gégauff) preaches to a small farming village about Mozart’s influence on modern music. Two garbage collectors lecture their bored audience at great length on Western imperialism and African resistance. Antoine Duhamel’s intensely dramatic music invests scenes with a noirish gravity that never seems properly to fit. Most jarringly of all, the dialogue is peppered with metacinematic references like Roland’s complaint “What a rotten film! All we meet are crazy people”, or his defense of burning someone alive with the words “they’re only imaginary characters”.

‘Weekend’ is a funny, shocking, and at times infuriating crash-and-burn trip through the clashing ideologies of the sixties – a surrealist agit-prop road movie that is unapologetically pretentious, even boring in parts. Yet one should only expect a film that uses reckless driving as a metaphor for the breakdown of society to be a bit hit-and-miss – and ‘Weekend’ still remains memorable for its many explosive flashes of genius.

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It's Got: A thoroughly unlikable pair of main characters; an extraordinary ten-minute tracking shot of a traffic jam that reveals all of society heading blindly for the apocalypse; a succession of bizarre picaresque encounters; a strange and gripping soundtrack.

It Needs: Lets just say that the main characters look bored with good reason during some of the films longer political diatribes.

DVD Extras Enhanced for widescreen TVs; Dolby digital 2.0, French language with optional English subtitles; interview with cinematographer Raoul Coutard (19min) on how Godard "was in a bad mood for most of the film", and went out of his way on the set to annoy his producers or humiliate Mireille Darc (who had not been Godards own choice for the lead rôle); Mike Figgis on Weekend (23min), on the richness of Godards ideas ("each scene is like a new film"), on his detachment, his use of music and text, and his influence on later filmmakers; bios of Godard, Coutard, Figgis and Colin MacCabe (Coutards interviewer). Version reviewed: Weekend (1967) from Artificial Eye DVD Extras Rating: 4/10

Alternatives:

Crash, Exterminating Angel, Gozu, His Wife and Her Lover, L'Âge D'Or, La Grande Bouffe, The Cook, the Thief, Wild at Heart

Summary

A funny, shocking, and at times infuriating crash-and-burn trip through the clashing ideologies of the sixties.

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