Sunday, January 24, 2010

#177: Weekend

Directed by: JEAN-LUC GODARD
1967, TSPDT Rank #236

Weekend is a film which is sometimes interesting and fascinating, but usually very pretentious. This isn't a mistake either. Godard intended it to be the "end of cinema" and assumed that no one would be able to sit through it. Well I did, and easier than one would expect; I was in a very open state of mind and was convinced that I was ready for whatever was thrown at me. Turns out I was thrown off anyway. Ultimately a Marxist examination of the phrase "freedom is violence," it starts out sort of like a Bunuelian critique of the bourgeoisie, until it becomes slowly more episodic, elusive, and experimental. The Marxist strains become more and more apparent, especially with the eight-minute rant about the Iroquois Indians and the dangers of globalism - at least from what I could tell, I'm sure it's harder as an English speaker. But at a certain point, the film goes off the deep end - suitably, into complete anarchy - and we see parricide, cannibalism, communist poetry, unsimulated animal killings, and a lot of pointless violence. This is the point where the film has completely distanced itself from the audience, leaving us scratching our heads and dismissing it as an exercise. Which it is. This is Godard at his most mean-spirited and socio-political point - it might be worth watching for some viewers, but it is not really a good film in the common sense of the word, and definitely not a good intro to those unfamiliar with his work.

(Rating: 5/10)


  1. You should read Pauline Kael's review of WEEKEND. She ranks it as one of the great visions of Hell. I think that fits, but not in the traditional sense of the term Hell. Godard's film is more essay than story, hence the episodic structure and the complete lack of narrative and stylistic consistency. True, Godard's experimental spirit will try one's patience throughout. But if you take the film as a series of scenes, similar to the way Brecht developed his work for the stage, you find that in each section Godard's visual ideas will accommodate his intended focus, what Kael calls Hell. That is, a complete breakdown of logical thought. Freedom is violence, yes, but Godard is not just concerned with physical violence. I think all the Marxist yapping in the film is nonsense; Godard meant it to be so. It’s the way people personalize and distort the dogma, and not Marxism itself, that Godard is satirizing. I mean, I defy you to follow the logic of the eight minute rant. The actor's conviction make you think they're saying something important, but really, what they come up with is nuts — and I think that's the deliberately point. We enter a world that is physically congested (the sex speech and the traffic jam, both of which represent a desensitized urban culture gone mad), and, as we travel down the road, going deeper and deeper into the forest, we discover an even greater chaos. There's a dead end to all logic; this is the end of the world as Da Da art. Irrational juxtaposition eradicates thought. (Setting fire to Emily Bronte!) Even the "revolutionaries" at the end of the road are as nuts. They're playing to a literal drumbeat out in the middle of nowhere. Godard is certainly an acquired taste. He shows us an alternative purpose for the art of film and it’s admittedly difficult. You catch so much about the film, more than most. If you even have the patience for a second viewing, see if you agree with some of what I’m saying here. Nick

  2. Thanks for the comment, Nick. I think in a way you're right, but I wouldn't assume that Godard doesn't have a political agenda here. This is a complete attack on the bourgeoisie and a destructive, infernal rebel yell meant to end cinema. Of course it didn't, but the cinema Godard made after this (early '70s period) was probably completely political, so I see this as somewhat of a transition work. In any case, he is working his Marxist ideas into a modernized vision of a worse Hell than has been described in the Bible and in popular culture, because it's easier to relate to. You're getting to something when you say it's more an essay than a film; I don't think it holds together very well, it sends a lot of jumbled, confusing messages about it's intentions - which is the way I believe Godard intended it to be. I surely don't think it was really meant to be a "good" film, as I stated in my post.