Directed by Jean-Luc Godard
France, 105 minutes
Starring Mireille Darc, Jeanne Yanne
It’s been about 48 hours since I went to the library and slid a copy of New Yorker Video’s 1991 VHS of Godard’s infamous Week-End. Never has a film left me quite as speechless as this one. Thus, I will try my best here.
The film’s plot, which is hardly even relevant to the film itself, centers on a narcissistic Parisian bourgeois couple, Roland and Corrine, who need to take a trip to the Corrine’s parents home to secure the inheritance. They both hate each other, cemented by the uncomfortable talk they have about a threesome Corrine might have been involved with. I have almost never felt more uncomfortable than I did seeing that dimly lit scene where Corrine, in just a bra and panties, sits on Roland’s desk going into intimate detail, like a confessional. With this sequence, Godard starts his indictment on French middle class society. By hiding a remarkably beautiful actress like Mireille Darc behind a shadow, only her almost-naked body visible, Godard disembodies her, allowing what she says to highlight the pain that free love actually causes.
When the couple’s road trip begins, they start a trail of carnage across the French countryside, proving that the bourgeois are as unhelpful to others as they are a hindrance to themselves. At this point, the film becomes a series of episodes, inter-cut between inter-titles that do nothing more than confuse the viewer, twisting our sense of day and time.
The first major episode is probably one of the most famous – the eight minute single tracking shot of a traffic jam. As the camera moves ever-so-slowly along the street (with Corrine and Roland almost always remaining in the far left of the shot), the jam’s cause becomes more and more intriguing. What single event could stop a mule-pulled cart, a car with a boat attached and sports cars in their track? A pile up with an exploding car and dead bodies all around. It is the first appearance of an exploding car, a motif Godard uses consistently throughout the film.
When they finally reach Corrine’s parent’s house, they find that they are too late. Her father has died and her mother refuses to give them a dime. So, what do they do? They kill her, throw her in a car next to a downed plane and set it aflame. But, they aren’t home free just yet.
The last twenty or so minutes of the film make up the last major episode. Here, Godard highlights the pointlessness of the hippie movement, by having Corrine and Roland caught by cannibalistic, militant hippies, carrying various weapons and communicating to one another by calling out films (“Battleship Potemkin to Johnny Guitar“). Roland is killed, his body mixed with the meat of a pig (whose killing Godard unflinchingly forces the audience to watch), but Corrine remains a captive, eventually succumbing to their ideas. She sits down with one of them and easts a piece of meat. “What’s in this?” she asks. He responds that there might be some of her husband in there. She continues eating and then… FIN de cinema.
Week-End was probably the hardest film I have ever tried to digest and make sense of. Clearly, someone like me who is not as well versed in Godard as I probably should have been before seeing this (recently seeing Made in U.S.A., though did help), and did not live through this era could not possibly hope to understand it all after just one viewing. Still, I enjoyed the film and its overall bizarre nature. Godard got me thinking, which is something films today very rarely do.
Currently, New Yorker Video, which did release a DVD, no longer makes DVDs and thus theirs of Week-End has been out of print forever. This is an interesting film that Criterion is supposedly working on a release of and it is definitely a film I’d get on day one.