Published: January 11, 2012
Directed by Jean-Luc Godard
At the Charles Theatre Jan. 14, 16, and 19
If there was ever a time for a Week End revival, it’s our wearily recessionary, Occupied era. This vivid restored print of Jean-Luc Godard’s 1967 era-ender can beam out over an audience of 99 percenters for whom its black-comic contempt for the absurd misadventures of a married pair of entitled bourgeois assholes will make more sense than ever, or at least will seem funnier. And for all Godard’s cinematic disruptions (the random, nonsensical title cards) and polemical dosing (long stretches of revolutionary rhetoric more or less read straight into the camera), it bears being reminded that Week End is funny, and savagely so.
Within minutes, it has been established that not only are Roland (Jean Yanne) and Corinne (Mireille Darc) both having affairs, they’re both scheming to kill the other, though not before they claim the inheritance that they believe they so richly deserve, by killing her father if need be. But the center isn’t holding in the world just outside their apartment; fender benders turn into armed brawls, and as they leave the city for the countryside, further evidence of societal breakdown presents itself in the film’s de facto centerpiece. Godard crafts a busy eight-minute tracking shot along an endless line of cars backed up along a country lane, a conceptual/technical triumph as significant as you’ll find anywhere in movies. Roland and Corinne’s line-cutting and everyone’s constant horn-honking seem even more callous when the reason for the delay/punch line rolls into view—a horrific traffic accident. Godard ends with the flourish of his protagonists speeding off through the pooling blood.
Car accidents recur (with even more blood and flames), as do elaborate tracking shots, as do slapstick comedy bits, period-costumed characters, fourth-wall-breaking dialogue, and, especially, political rhetoric. As Roland and Corinne descend into depravity, along with the entire French countryside, Godard quite literally lectures the viewer at length via various onscreen proxies, pounding away at the communist class-war declarations that would soon propel him into an artistic break with cinema as nominal entertainment. Week End itself is hard to enjoy in certain respects, but there’s nothing quite as cheering as watching odious yuppies get what they deserve, and Godard was quite keen on that.
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