Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Week End (1967)

When was the last time you had a hell lot of fun while watching a film? And we aren’t even talking escapist, commercial popcorn flicks or sitcoms! Far from it. We’re talking about an avant-garde surrealist film, highly disturbing yet darkly humorous at the same time….in French New Wave style!

Jean-Luc Godard’s “Weekend” (sometimes written “Week End”) will guarantee a delightfully macabre ride through hell, as a husband and wife cheating on each other decide to ride to the country to secure inheritance from the parents of the wife, by possibly murdering her father! Sounds crazy? Not half as crazy as what ensues next as their journey turns into an outlandish odyssey through a nightmare full of traffic jams and gruesome car accidents and terrorists and hippies and cannibals!

What “Weekend” is about is difficult to pen. Perhaps it is about Godard’s bizarre vision of the apocalypse; of a bleak future that’s going to see the end of civilization as we know it; a world in which people will turn on one another and start raping and looting and killing and eating each other! A world in which the bourgeois society will bear the brunt of its own materialistic trappings…when people will become so insensitive, they will even steal stuff off of dead bodies rather nonchalantly!

Or perhaps “Weekend” is merely a black comedy built around everything Godard personally hated and wanted to make fun of, through the medium he knows best…cinema! And he pulls it off like there’s no tomorrow! Sometimes he also resorts to self-parody! And for that, he uses some insane yet subtle absurdist humour. Blink and you may miss some of the gems and golden lines uttered in this film. Sample this: Roland (Jean Yanne) abandons (or loses) his car and starts out on foot with his wife Corinne (Mireille Darc ). On the way there are numerous mangled bodies, victims of car accidents and the remains of their vehicles lying around, but they are just casually ignored! Roland tries to ask directions to another character in the film, gets some loony response in return and comments “What a rotten film! All we meet are crazy people!”

Godard, an eccentric auteur that he is, makes sure he frustrates his audiences as well as keeps them hooked with his bravura writing. Usage of intertitles isn’t uncommon in a Godard film, but in “Weekend” they take on a new, entirely free form, get sprinkled arbitrarily between scenes, interrupting randomly yet trying to say something about the scene at hand. But they don’t always take a serious form; sometimes some of the dialog uttered takes the form of intertitles, sometimes Godard tries to be funny by adding title cards like “A film found on scrap heap” to describe this motion picture! At other times we see some sharp political jibes.

Then there are the typical Godard idiosyncrasies including a background score that sometimes drowns the dialog and appears out of nowhere and disappears just as suddenly as it appeared; some deliberate repetitions of scenes and dialogs as if it’s some editing flaw! And let’s not forget the over 8 minutes long tracking shot of a traffic jam accompanied by blaring car horns in the background and car drivers cursing each other in the foreground! This shot ends in an ironic fashion that reveals the cause of the jam! The film takes dramatic turns with one bizarre event after another, subjecting us to a savagely funny ride, with senseless political speeches, oddball camerawork and ultimately  an allegorical, chaotic finale…..the aim was clearly to alarm the viewer and leave him/her in a jaw-dropped state!

There are notable movie references....although it is difficult to say in one case; a “Persona”-esque (Ingmar Bergman, 1966) monologue of Corinne narrating a particularly wild sexual adventure, and in a nod to Luis Bunuel, perhaps, a title card that reads “The Exterminating Angel” (1962). Speaking of Bunuel, it is not difficult to find some creative similarities between “Weekend” and Bunuel’s “The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie”. Nonetheless, this could be a first film of its kind for Godard (it is a significant departure compared to his earlier 60s works) and he makes sure he leaves no stone unturned in delivering a masterwork. “Weekend” could very well have been rechristened “Week End” (as it is known in some countries) owing to the fact that this was Godard’s final film of his most celebrated cinematic period.

Highly imaginative, but pure Madness; Godard’s “Weekend” = Luis Bunuel on steroids!

Score: 10/10 (Hands down!)

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