Jean-Luc Godard and Luis Buñuel enjoyed an ardent misanthropic duel in the '60s and '70s, but who won is anyone's call. Godard's Weekend lays down the trump in a harrowing and darkly funny allegory in which social mores f... more »ray along political lines. Played out in a metafilm in which characters question their own reality, a morally bankrupt Parisian couple tries to leave the city on a much-loathed country holiday with the wife's parents. Along the way, endless traffic jams, sudden violence, and vistas of gory car crashes underscore their corrupted values. Their lethal encounter with the in-laws and kidnap by an anarchic band of radical cannibals finds the couple--and presumably "decent" society with them--reverting to a nasty primitivism. The idea is of course that the bored, apathetic heart of the bourgeoisie is never far from acting out its most homicidal fantasies. --Alan E. Rapp« less
I've not seen all of Jean-Luc Godard's films, but of those I have seen this is my favorite. The narrative concerns a conventional, middle class, married couple who conspire to take a weekend trip to kill the wife's parents for money.
The car trip taken by the couple is comprised of a series of disastrous, improbable, and perplexing events. Art terrorists, thieves, rapists, and Marxist revolutionaries assail the couple at all turns. France is being overrun by weirdos! Bloody, flaming car (and plane!) crashes are everywhere. Violent demise is at every turn.
In the movie is a famous traffic jam scene that employed what was, up until the time of this movie's making, the longest dolly ever made. The scene is absurd, comical, and one of the delights of the movie. Likewise, Godard was becoming interested in socialist politics at this time in his career, in light of the Vietnam war and anti-colonial struggles that were happening globally, so a lot of "revolutionary" ideas are expressed by characters in the film. Unfortunately Godard most often has people simply read manifestos to the camera. Godard's political interests are thus conveyed in an awkward, cumbersome way. You do not have to agree with they're saying in order to enjoy the film.
Having said that, the movie is still one hell of a ride -- no pun intended. The bourgeois couple at the heart of the story don't care about the flaming chaos around them. They just want their money. At one point the husband even sits idly by as a stranger rapes his wife.
As a journey narrative of two people, WEEKEND (or is it WEEK END?)is reminiscent of Alejandro Jodorwosky's 1968 FANDO & LIS. (There was something in the water in the late 60s.) Like Fando & Lis, Weekend is mainly a series of segments or vignettes strung together over the course of two protagonists' quest. In Fando & Lis's case the couple's uest is for the fabled City of Tar; in Weekend's case it's for an ample inheritance.
The last 30 minutes are the best in the film, as well as the most graphic. Comparisons to Pasolini's SALO or even John Waters's PINK FLAMINGOS may come to mind. In short, the bourgeois couple are kidnapped by mod-ish looking radical militants who look as if they've all come from an MC5 concert. One disturbing scene shows the actors actually slaughtering a duck and a pig on camera. The ducks headless neck suirts blood as its body twitches and its wings flap. The pig struggles as its throat is slit in front of the camera. Of course, people kill pigs and fowl everyday -- it's how a lot of folks are supplied with their favorite meals. What could possibly be wrong with showing it, Godard almost seems to ask?
But the radicals also, it turns out, like to literally eat the rich, too. One uncomfortable scene portrays a victim stripping naked, being killed, and then being prepared for a meal as a cook cracks two eggs over her lifeless body and then thrusts a fish into her vagina (not shown on camera). Finally, the bourgeois husband is killed and is served up with the pig meat. The wife, who seems to have accepted the militants' way of life at this point, dines on her husband's and the pig's flesh as the movie ends.
Not for everyone, but some sort of remarkable milestone in cinema. Chaotic, dangerous, transgressive, and never boring.
The version of WEEK END I saw was the PAL version, which featured a great transfer, nice lucid colors, and special features that included an interview with Godard cinematographer Raoul Coutard, who is actually quite humorous and likeable as he sheds light on the circumstances surrounding the making of the movie. ("Godard was in a bad mood most of the time he was making the film, hence all the car crashes," "Godard wanted to piss off the producer with this scene," etc., to paraphrase.)"
An Outstanding Film--But Not for Everyone...
johnewark | 07/24/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The review on this page which claims that Weekend is one of the worst films ever missed the point and was not apparently, given the reviewer's qualms with the movie, the intended audience for the film. Weekend marks Godard's nearly-formal break with "bourgeois film-making," i.e., film-making which has as its sole criteria to "entertain" (as in escapism), to engage in linear story-telling, and to reinforce film cliches, formulas, and all the trappings of popular western (and especially American) film-making. In the movie, the audience witnesses the collapse of the narrative, the disintegration of formal film technique, and--more literally--the degeneration of western civilization. A ten-minute-long traffic jam, the barbarism of pig slaughters and corpses littering the countryside, and the unsympathetic characterizations of the bourgeois couple on whom the film centers (if it does indeed have a center) have not been filmed to entertain, to comfort, or to lull the audience, but to provoke thought, to engage actively, and--quite possibly--to enrage actively as well. Arriving at a conclusion, being "pretty" or emotional, or arranging details tidily would defeat the purpose of Weekend, which is to illustrate incoherence, savagery, and decline. And, in this regard, perhaps no film has better tampered with the status quo of film-making than Godard's Weekend has. Also, it must be remembered that Weekend is a reflection, to a great deal, of the turbulence of the sixties, and in particular the student protests in Paris in 1968. Marxism may seem to its modern audience to be passe and irrelevant, but at the time, it was still a viable "direction" for many countries--which does not of course imply Soviet communism or the communism of Mao, but a more orthodox marxism of Marx himself. In short--and of course this review has been anything but short--Weekend is a powerful, decadent, and innovative piece of work which seeks (or sought) to elevate film itself to the level of progressiveness that other artistic media such as painting, music, and literature have pursued in the twentieth century under the banners of modernism and postmodernism. It has largely succeeded, but unfortunately, as evidenced by the glut of action films, bathroom-humor wallows, and awkward love stories increasingly popular today, he has inspired only a relative few film-makers to follow in his footsteps..."
(5 out of 5 stars)
"An utterly brilliant pastiche from Godard. JLG gives us a nightmarish vision of contemporary bourgeois society in which the apocalypse takes on the form of a series of bloody car wrecks and cannibalistic revolutionaries running wild. Even the scenes that don't work, like the bizarre encounter with Emily Bronte and Louis Carroll and the 18th-century French revolutionary reading a political tract, are forgiveable simply because they only add to the anarchic nature of the film. How many other movies have you seen that feature a woman screaming before a horrific car accident because she left her handbag inside, or a speech on Hitlerism and African slavery intercut with clips of traffic jams?"
The dangers of French Bank Holidays!
johnewark | Hull, East Yorkshire, England | 04/17/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"With influences ranging from Freud to Marx, De Sade and Eisenstein having walk-on roles and the Parisian weekend transformed into an allegorical bourgeois hell,
Week-End is one of the defining films of the 20th Century. Born out of the nouvelle vague cinema (French New Wave), this is the terrible birth that is brought to light from J.L.Godard's obsession with prophesising the destruction and decline of the West. Even after taking into account his overt political messages, Weekend still exist as one of the most technically revolutionary pieces of cinema to emerge from his studios into a blinding glare of publicity and hostility. Not content with depicting the destruction of western commercial values, Godard disrupts the visual narrative by interspersing film titles, book titles and music onto a background of patriotic red, white and blue colours. From a personal perspective, one of the most impressive sequences is an eight minute long tracking-shot of the Parisian highway which progresses from straightforward traffic jams to car-wrecks and the inevitable symbol of multinational Capitalism, a Shell oil truck. Essentially Week-End marks the 'Maoist period' of Godard's film-making career, during which he declared that 'the only way to be a revolutionary intellectual is to give up being an intellectual.' Starring Mireille Darc and Jean Yanne, Week-End's fabular narrative is a weekend journey from Paris to Normandy which slowly becomes an apocalyptic struggle against the French peasant revolutionaries who continually intervene to prevent the couple meeting Darc's mother in order to find out whether they have successfully poisoned her father. This emblematic quest for the Capitalist Grail is hindered by a philosophising character from Dumas, two rebels (African and Algerian) masquerading as refuse collectors and Saint-Juste, before the couple are captured on their return to Paris by the Seine-et-Loise Liberation Front, a group of cannibalistic freedom fighters. Godard's continued affinity with politics can be witnessed in his other Maoist films, Les Chinoise (1967), Le Gai Savoir and Tout Va Bien (1972). Despite accusations of pretension, he still remains one of the most provocative and influential film makers of his and future generations, whilst his immense cinematic output can be regarded as a Marxist biography of the previous century. What was an initially ground-breaking piece of cinema has evolved into an essential European film. Heralded by Pauline Kael in the New Yorker as 'Godard's Vision of Hell, and it ranks with the visions of the greatest' and 'somewhere between Swift and Samuel Beckett, alternatively violent and tender, humorous and cruel' (Jan Dawson, Sight and Sound) Week-end is a film that must be seen to be believed and to miss this is to miss out on one of the spectacles of 20th Century cinema."
Darc, the spaced cowboy
Oliver Sheppard | 12/12/1998
(5 out of 5 stars)
"a brilliant intellect's look at hell on earth -- a gorgeous, daft, two-timing blonde frenchwoman and her cheating bourgeoise husband spend the weekend dodging traffic jams, cannibals, car crashes and left-wing politicos -- a beautiful, bored french miasma. fender-benders and violence shot with typical, hilarious godard cynicism -- a must-see for godard fans -- won't make sense to others. won't make sense either way, but great fun for true believing new wavers."