Critic Review - Cinema Writer

This is Lord of the Flies as played by adults, and for Left Bank intellectuals, heady with righteous protest and wired on too many coffees and cigarettes

August 17, 2010 Full Review Source: Cinema Writer | Comment (1)
Cinema Writer


Claire S.

Claire Sinclair

Godard subversive humor is so charming in spots, Godard hits the high zenith with this apocalyptic fable about a mutually unfaithful Parisian couple trolling around in their zippy convertible for a weekend in the country, only to get bafflingly lost. They encounter a menagerie of post-colonial indignation, primal sexuality, gang warfare, guerilla revolt, till, finally, they succumb to its ?law of the jungle? primitivism.

This is Lord of the Flies as played by adults, and for intelligent intellectuals, heady with righteous protest and wired on chai lattes and cigarettes. There?s a revolutionary fervor to Godard?s filmmaking, and it all stems from a place of insurgent late-60s left-wing radicalism, the results are formidable, and cheeky when they?re not obliquely creative. Weekend transpires as a series of surrealistic vignettes, including one featuring an amusingly long tracking shot in which an eccentric cross-section of French daytrippers badger each other from out of their cars along a horn-snarled, traffic-jammed country road. It?s the highlight in avant-garde narrative cinema. Throughout, characters question each other whether they?re real or part of a movie, and intertitles declaring the End of Cinema and of civilization pepper the action?while some of these, like the whizzing speedometer that keeps a tag on the speed-racing dysfunctional couple are truly inventive, Godard?s notion of cinematic apocalypse are downright brilliant. The French hyper-intellectual Godard intellectualizes cinema as pop culture agit-prop going so far as having his forest-dwelling renegades address each other using ?inside? Hollywood and French movie characters to symbolize ideas in dialectical conflict. Watching all this is about as tremendously engaging as the Sunday crossword puzzle, and for the same reasons; there?s nothing as much fun as deeper as ?getting? the obscure sociopolitical references (?A week of four Thursdays?), and deciphering the interplay between the real and surreal to reap Godard?s message.

Class, ethnicity and colonialism get thrown into a tragicomic mixer as characters interplay with each other, sometimes addressing the camera directly, and the results? near-Lynchian humor can be interestingly outrageous achieving a deeper, lasting significance. Of course, from where I sat, the descent into pseudo-pagan rituals (with the fish inserted between the woman?s legs), butchery, and cannibalism, not to mention the scene in which the husband sits by while his wife gets raped in a ditch?presumably, the wife, after voicing whimpering resistance, is ready and willing?all add up to shock-worthy bliss and so much more.

Is it all meant to represent European societal breakdown at its crudest and most hopeless. Whatever the case, Weekend raises both chuckles and hackles. Ultimately, Godard, the provocateur, coheres his material into something of emotional or philosophical value. I say ?philosophical,? not ?political,? because politics do not adhere well to the storytelling form; we go to stories not to be told how to think or what to think, but to share with the storyteller something of a kinship in our view of the world, a common philosophy about how human beings relate to one another. Not that Godard was ever interested in garnering a sympathetic audience, but his earliest works ? all audacious send-ups of form, genre, and social alienation ? have a conscious wink-and-a-nudge about them, a sense that their maker was a critic without being a curmudgeon. With Weekend and with every work afterwards, he propelled further out into the outer limits of his own brilliant mind. He launched away from the midstream, the place where his earlier character-driven narratives and his post-modern musings flowed together at their early-to-mid-60?s best.

Luckily, Weekend didn?t spell the End of Cinema, but the dawn of Godard?s own brand of cinema by the fire-flash of groundbreaking character-driven stories that began to come out of Hollywood soon after Weekend?s release like Easy Rider a very similar movie..

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