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A supposedly idyllic week-end 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 <firstname.lastname@example.org>
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Jean-Luc Godard will always be Jean-Luc Godard. Either you love his films or hate them. Either you love the guy or hate him. Now, with "Weekend" (1967, France), I just don't know what to make of him (not that this is not what I generally feel whenever I see one of his films).
At the film's opening credits, it's outrightly declared that it's "a film adrift in cosmos". Godard must've meant that seriously, for once you've entered the film's universe, you're in for one wreck of a viewing experience. This is one chaotic universe--and I meant to say it in a pleasurable way!
To attempt to state the plot of the film could only be a disservice to it--though this is not to say that the film doesn't have a "plot"! To attempt to extract the essence of the film might only be a disgrace to it--though this is not to say that the film doesn't have an "essence"! To attempt to map out Godard's agenda in making the film could just turn out to be a mockery of the filmmaker--though this is not to say that the film doesn't have an "agenda"!
The plot? A couple goes on a weekend trip to their parents' house to execute a sinister plan....The essence? The decadence of bourgeois values, the arbitrary yet natural progression of fate, and the transformative power of social awakening....The agenda? For Godard to become increasingly political and to continue on deconstructing the traditional film narrative methods, and thus "alienating" the film audience.... (Much like, theater-wise, Bertolt Brecht had increasingly become political in his succeeding plays while at the same time had continued on employing "alienating" theatrical devices.)
But all of these takes a side-step to give way to the overwhelming chaos, arbitrariness and "playful" senselessness that truly characterize "Weekend". Or, perhaps, the "means" are designed to be of service to the "end".
This chaotic cosmos is potently embedded in the viewers' sensibilities by way of that jaw-droppingly sustained 10-minute dolly shot of a horrendous countryside traffic jam (the "mother of all traffic jams", as one film reviewer ably put it) that the above-quoted couple encountered on their way to Oinville (their parents' place). After that, the quirky and amoral couple would continue to meet along the way a whole lot of "hindrances" to their destination, most of which Godard leisurely takes his time to stage (as what he did, say, in "Alphaville" and "Band of Outsiders").
On the one hand, these "hindrances" appear to be a carry-over from the previous traffic jam that the couple went through (those car wrecks and corpses). On the other hand, they are intended to be an overt display of the filmmaker's alienating techniques (like at one point where the couple gets to encounter a pair of "fictional", "literary" characters and the man starts to blurt out how "trashy" the film is for all they meet are "crazy characters"--how hilarious!). On the other still, they serve as a venue for Godard's explicit political views, the expressiveness is of such a way that this may take the form of direct camera address (like in that long scene where these two "brothers" pour out their thoughts and sentiments about the oppression in South Africa and the discrimination of the blacks).
Now that I have mentioned things political, I'm not sure if it's even necessary to mention the political "awakening" that came upon the woman after the couple was kidnapped by a band of Communist guerrillas. The scenes comprising this specific episode tread the line of being absurd, grotesque and outrageous that seeing them can't even make one believe them.
The online Premiere magazine listed "Weekend" as one of the "25 Most Dangerous Movies". "Dangerous" in the sense of these films challenge our "bedrock notions" of what it is that we normally see in the movies and how we see them (with films like "A Clockwork Orange", "Eraserhead", "Requiem for a Dream", "Freaks"). It's a question of theme and method. Well, it's not that JLG's films have not always turned our viewing experience upside down. But when compared to, let's say, the ebullient fatalism of "Breathless", "Weekend" in fact exudes an apocalyptic melange and an irresolvable recklessness that make it rather an uncomfy fare.
The irony is that even if this Godard film is labeled as "dangerous", it's still worth a repeat viewing, much like all the other films that made it to the Premiere mag's list. It's one thing to say that this film poses danger and it's another to say that this film is "painful to watch twice". It's something that's worthy of another article--and actually there's an available list for that already!
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