And then there’s a film like Jean-Luc Godard’s ‘Weekend.’ Watching this can be a pretty horrible experience; imagine trying to see how long you can hold your breath underwater, only to find that once you try to come up for air an invisible hand is keeping you from breaking the surface. That basically sums up this 104-minute behemoth of frustration, not because ‘Weekend’ is a terrible film by any stretch of the word… but because Godard so successfully makes you feel like an idiot the entire time. So let’s start by not recommending this film to the average viewer. Yeah, that sounds like a good place to start.
Determined to collect an inheritance, the scheming Corinne and Roland, a bourgeois couple, travel the countryside as hell breaks loose around them – flaming wreckage, piles of dismembered body parts (when they aren’t being eaten), reality and fantasy colliding on the periphery of a disintegrating society. As the couple endure the trials-by-fire of a burgeoning classless epoch, their identities as members of a once elitist citizenry is cast aside in not so much a revolution as what can be described as a simultaneous memory/premonition of a revolution.
To be quite honest, all you really need to know going in to ‘Weekend’ is that it upends the classic understanding that civilizations are borne out of progressive barbaric communities, made up of the survivors of savage tribal communes. That is, whereas normally you might find in a narrative the advancement from one group to the next, which goes hand in hand with the learning from past mistakes and triumphs, in ‘Weekend’ we see the dissolution of this “civilized society.” Filmed during a period when the French citizenry was steeped in obsessive consumerism (sounds familiar), Godard is simply attempting to project a graphic realism of what amounts to be our day-to-day lives. We are driving our new Porsches’ and Mercedes’ 80 miles per hour headlong into a brick wall onto which the shades of what we perceive to be “living” are projected.
‘Weekend’ is unmercifully satiric in its downward trajectory of a people – of us – that refuse to pull the emergency brake, to “stop” before it’s too late. So is Godard right? Well, that’s not for this article to decide or explore. The point is that if you’re willing to stand neck deep in a lake of your own filth and can handle the pointless meanderings of Godard’s camera in its attempt to emulate the pointless direction many of us have steered our individual lives – lives filled with cheap interests and morality, according to Godard’s accusatory tone – then go for it. And when you figure out the answer to the question posited above, comment here to let the rest of us know.
The Criterion edition of ‘Weekend’ has some pretty great special features. The cream of the crop this time around is the video essay “Revolutions Per Second” by writer and filmmaker Kent Jones, which explores ‘Weekend’ and Godard in depth. Also included are archival interviews with actors Mireille Darc (Corinne) and Jean Yann (Roland), cinematographer Raoul Coutard, and assistant director Claude Miller. The best of these is Raoul Coutard’s sit-down, which is not only the longest but the most interesting as well, diving into first-person accounts of Godard’s eccentricity and adept filmmaking skills.
Then there is an excerpt from a French television program on Godard, featuring on-set footage from ‘Weekend’ shot by filmmaker Philippe Garrel’s independent film crew, which is also interesting but definitely too brief to add anything of note. Instead, look forward to a very comprehensive and enlightening booklet, featuring an essay by critic and novelist Gary Indiana, selections from Alain Bergala’s book “Godard au travail: Les annees 60”; and finally you will find an excerpt from a 1969 interview with Godard about the film (which reveals a great deal more about his personality, than anything else really).
‘Weekend’ has not been rated, but was “prohibited for children under the age of 18” by the French version of the U.S. MPAA. There is no content advisory for this film on IMDB, but it contains scenes of very graphic language, some violence, brief nudity, and disturbing imagery.
‘Weekend’ is available at the following retail stores and online markets:
Target — DVD ; Blu-Ray
Walmart — DVD ; Blu-Ray
Barnes and Noble — DVD ; Blu-Ray
Best Buy — DVD ; Blu-Ray
Amazon — DVD ; Blu-Ray
Comment below to continue the discussion of this review, or even just to suggest any films you would like to see reviewed here in the future.