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A supposedly idyllic weekend trip to the countryside turns into a never-ending nightmare of traffic jams, revolution, cannibalism and murder as French bourgeois society starts to collapse under the weight of its own consumer preoccupations Written by
Michael Brooke <email@example.com>
The character, Saint-Just, played by Jean-Pierre Léaud, is based on Louis Antoine Léon de Saint-Just (1767 - 1794), a French revolutionary and military leader closely allied with Robespierre. He served with Robespierre on the Committee of Public Safety, becoming heavily involved in the Reign of Terror, and was executed on the same day as Robespierre. Leaud's character is reciting from Saint Just's 'L'esprit de la Révolution et de la Constitution de la France', a founding text of revolutionary ideology. See more »
weekend: one of the few truly great political films
Weekend is one of the best movies I've ever seen, but it's also one of the most troubling. Its depth politically is, I believe, unmatched in cinema; Godard is truly a master, but this is, like a Sun Ra record, art for which you might need to be prepared.
By telling you to "be prepared," however, I don't mean to say you should go read up on film history. Sure, you'll miss a trick or two if you don't, but there's enough material to keep you very, very interested even if you're not a film student. Nor, in fact, should you even feel the need to read up on French history; it suffices to say that, to be very simplistic about it, as the U.S. was to Vietnam at the time, so France was to Algeria. Really, if you wanted to be ready for ALL the intellectual references and name-dropping, you ought to have a good classical education. That's hard to get, so I can't possibly suggest that...
What I do mean by "be prepared" is: be prepared for long shots that might not make sense, be prepared to consider your place in the world... be prepared to think about the movie while it's running. Hollywood encourages us to turn off our brains while we're watching a movie; Godard doesn't allow it. His film is intentionally aggravating and annoying at times, but Godard knows precisely what he's doing, and he manipulates the viewer expertly. (The infamous "car-jam scene" is to this day the most annoying and at the same time one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.) Be prepared to consider your place in society, society's place in the world, and the problems of those situations. Godard raises numerous incredibly important questions: what is the final fate of literature and the wealths of past generations handed down after political upheaval is finished with them? what is the point of any rhetoric-- communist or otherwise-- in a world of selfish, stupid bourgeois pigs (and, as anyone who's ever worked in fast food will tell you, this one is)? does art even have a purpose in a marketplace?
I personally disagree with those who claim that Weekend is dated and only interesting historically. The message is only obscured to us because the draft is no longer in full swing and because the entertainment industry has succeeded in lulling us into false security. We still have our Vietnams, though they may be secret; and, facts must be faced, most of us are still complete and total jerks, caring very little for the world around us and very much for our own pleasure. At the heart of Godard's movie is a deep and abiding love and compassion for humanity; the decadence of the world around us, however, forces the surface of the film to be cynical and hateful toward all the disgusting influences which keep us from being what we could be.
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