Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Weekend (1967)

Okay this is my last Godard review for awhile.  Since I read the book: "Everything Is Cinema: The Working Life of Jean-Luc Godard" I wanted to review some of his films to get a better rounded view of Godard.  First was Breathless, and now "Weekend".  Weekend is considered Godard's last film of the 60's. He would eventually come back to movie making in 1972, but till then Godard was as he said "finished with cinema".  The end of Week-end even states this in the end credits.

To tell you that it was a difficult movie to get through is an understatement.  Not that it is a bad movie.  It's far from that.  Weekend is one of Godard's darkest films, and it really reminded me of  certain other films about the end of the world, but what Godard does which other filmmakers do not is to include sociopolitical undercurrents within the story.  The film is about consumerism, and breakdown of civilization into savagery.   Our main characters Corinne (Mireille Drac) and Roland (Jean Yanne) play two characters which garner little sympathy  from its audience.  Right at the beginning we hear that these two characters are plotting each others demise with their respective lovers.  They are also plotting together to kill Corinnes's ailing father for the inheritance.  So right away we really have no vested interest in these characters.  We are just passive viewers on a journey toward the downward spiral of civilization.

Pretty heady stuff isn't it?  It's hard to follow, and at times I felt myself drifting.  But the world that Godard presents is one of utter chaos, and one that is yet poetic in nature.  The films lead characters are driven by primitive instincts.  I won't get into how Godard's political views find their way into the film, nor will I discuss the underlining meaning of the film and its characters.  For that their are other film scholars who can do a better job then I can ever do.  What I will discuss is the way the film is structured, how it looks, and how does it stand as a film.

The film is dark.  In the end our characters meet their demise, and the funny thing is that we don't really care. The film's look is interesting.  I also wanted to see "Weekend" because it was in color, and I was intersted in seeing how Godard handles it.   I found out that most of the film was shot in exteriors, and Godard increased the films speed by force processing the film.  Godard's long time cinematographer (Raoul Coutard) said, that at times he needed to put filters on the cameras to decrease the exposure because of the high  ISO they were rating the film stock at.  By doing this Godard creates a interesting color palette in the film, which gives the film that certain quality of documentary.  I believe that is what Godard wanted since he liked the intimacy and the unpredictability of the documentary form.  It's why sometimes Godard did not give his actors their lines before shooting.

I've always said that atmosphere in a movie is important.  That atmosphere in the film works, and it gives it an edge that a lot of films in it's day did not have.  I am reminded of Wim Wenders "The End of the World", and Romero's "Dawn of the Dead" looking at Godard's film.  Godard even touches on cannibalism, and it is the human condition spiraling into savagery and it's this that I come away with.

Godard while making the film seemed to be mocking the critics, and it is largely known that Godard was tired of the whole process that was film making.  That is why at the end of the film it says "the end of cinema".  There are scenes in the film that disturb.  The killing of a pig is one.  Godard handles the violence very objectively, but it is this scene that disturbs the viewer.  Throughout the film we see dead people on the road, and cars crashed and burning, but its is the scene with the pig that jolts us.  Godard's does this on purpose to get a reaction from his audience.  In an interview Godard says this about the scene:

"I think an audience will be much more shocked by the death of a pig then the death of a human being, even if it were told that it was a real human being.  One is not used to the idea of shooting animals just for a movie."

We (the audience) have no emotion of seeing all the dead human beings throughout the film lying in the road.  But when Godard injects the scene with the pig he is showing the duplicity of his audience.  You can see Godard sneering at the thought of our reaction, and that is what he wants.

So is "Weekend" a film for everyone?  Definitely NOT!!   Does it show Godard's genius?  Yes it does.  Of course for a lot of us the film may not work for them, but I don't see it that way.  Godard makes certain points in the film, and he does so by engaging his audience.  That separates Godard from other filmmakers.  He is willing to engage his audience even to the point of pissing them off.  

Godard has a lot to say and he pushes cinema further and further then most filmmakers would or dare to.  You have to appreciate that.  An artist grows only when he or she pushes his art to its limits.  Sometimes it works and othertimes it may not, but one learns and it is this that I find so compelling about Godard.  He is always learning.  Godard incessantly and broadly self-critical, and that makes Godard Godard, and an interesting filmmaker.

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