Godard’s ‘Weekend’ or — The Rapture of Rupture.

I was in a real fucker of a mood yesterday, and I mean a real fucker of one. Nothing specifically had happened, that was maybe the infuriating point leaving me in a sort of free-floating realm of dyspeptic angst with nothing concrete to rail against. How do you deal with a mood like that? Sometimes by diving even further into misanthropy so thank god for Godard’s ‘Weekend’ (1967)!

Corrine and Roland are a couple of absolute shits. They treat people like dirt (although everyone in this “world” seems to deserve it), reduce love to nothingness, crave material objects and so decide to go for a drive in the country to kill Corrine’s parents for the inheritance money. On their road-trip they inadvertently kill people in a sort of Bonnie and Clyde by J.G. Ballard kinda way, get into a traffic jam, meet Emily Bronte, Saint-Just and a wizard who is the product of Alexander Dumas being sodomised by God, encounter Third World politics and can’t figure out if they’re in a film or “reality” or what an on-screen death actually means.

Now all this might sound overly intellectual, up its own ass (it is!) and completely insufferable (it’s not) if it wasn’t for the fact that ‘Weekend’ is ridiculously well made, constantly inventive and, quite possibly, the funniest movie I have seen in years. Any movie that opens declaring it as a “film lost in the cosmos” and “found on the scrapheap” you know has its cheeks so full of tongue it’s like a squirrel storing nuts for Winter. Everything Godard can do to subvert or destroy he does, with in nearly every case destruction actually leading to invention, usually a very humorous one.

For example — that famous 7 minute long tracking shot. It’s technically and thematically audacious as we see French society condensed into one long, continuous take… except it isn’t (although it is). Even here Godard can’t help but sabotage his own cinema as he does what I can’t imagine any other director doing in their right mind which is to break the illusion by adding frames of text halfway through. Why? Possibly so chin-stroking cineastes can’t say “My! What a wonderful, unbroken tracking shot.” Even though it is (and we can see it is), it isn’t. Fuck you!

And it’s not long after that that we get what is, in my opinion, one of the funniest lines in all of cinema where, after a truly horrific car-crash, Corrine screams out — “My Hermes handbag!” The context, timing and visceral nature of it is shocking but genuinely hysterical as hell. And it helps the anti-Capitalist message of the movie: Hermes was the God of Trade after all.

There’s way too much more to say about the film than I have time to go into here. A few brief, parting thoughts though — Juliet Berto gets a great cameo and there is a eye-popping 360 rotating shot involving Mozart performed for the masses in a barnyard that demonstrates how, despite all his mischief, Godard can pull off moments of pure beauty similar to Antonioni at his best.

Godard’s use of sound is also firing on all cylinders here (then again, when is it not?) showing why he has one of the best ears in cinema. This is evident in an early scene where Corrine is recalling a sexually explicit threesome she had with another couple that, again, goes on for so long and is so over the top it becomes funny. Both her and Roland are back-lit, giving it a sort of dream-like interrogational/confessional feel, yet the score keeps dropping out then hard-cutting back in — it is not the camera zooming in but the soundtrack; a sort of sonic “leaning-in” as we struggle to hear all the sordid details. And that is just one of many examples scattered throughout, like shards of glass on a highway.

So how do you end a movie with so much radical shit going on it in? How to tie it all up without it feeling anti-climatic? Well, Godard does it and does it in style with balls on by declaring that it is not just the end of the film but also the end of cinema. Now THAT’S how to end a movie! And you know what, in nearly every other instance this would feel pretentious and out-of-place but bizarrely at the end of ‘Weekend’ it feels genuinely warranted and earned leaving me there sitting nodding and going “Yeah, I can imagine that after what I’ve just seen.” Godard isn’t just wanting to destroy the cliches of cinema but the actual medium of cinema itself and you gotta admit, that’s pretty funny.

It’s that sense of don’t-give-a-damn mischief that I adore about Godard’s work. I mean, look at the photo of him while his crew are setting up the traffic jam sequence; look at his little face and his little grin. He knows EXACTLY what he is up to and how fucking naughty he’s being. If only there were more directors like that.

So yeah, if you’re ever in a funk and need snapping out of it then I strongly prescribe ‘Weekend’. It’s just incredible and if it doesn’t get to you in any way then you might already by dead.

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Colin Edwards

Colin Edwards

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Comedy writer, radio producer and director of large scale audio features.