DVD & Blu-ray Reviews

Weekend, Blu-ray (1967/2012)

May be a watershed 1960s film, but it's misantropic attitude to the bourgeousie turned me off.

Published on November 28, 2012

Weekend, Blu-ray (1967/2012)

Director: Jean-Luc Godard
Cast: Mireille Darc, Jean Yanne
Studio: Gaumont/Janus/The Criterion Collection 635 [11/13/12}
Video: 1.66:1 for 16:9 color
Audio: French PCM mono
Subtitles: English
Extras: Video essay by Kent Jones, Archival interviews with the two lead actors & assistant director Claude Miller, French TV program on Godard, Trailers (U.S. & France), illustrated printed booklet with essay by film critic Gary Indiana and shots from film.  
Length: 104 minutes
Rating: **** 

This is probably Godard’s more relentless attack on French bourgeois values as well as U.S. Imperialism. Frankly, can’t believe this used to be my favorite Godard film, and this time it turned me off quickly. It’s full of his at-the-moment Maoist leanings, which he espouses via long declaimed passages from the Red Book and other writings, while often completely different things are taking place onscreen. It centers around a woman who has been planning with her husband to kill one of their parents for his insurance, and then are secretly planned to kill one another for the same reasons. During a “weekend” motor trip in their Alfa-Romeo they are systemically radicalized (or at least she is – her husband is killed and eaten by cannibal revolutionaries—including his wife).

The best part of it—which retains my fascination with the whole film—is the mother of all traffic jams, along a French country road, with the motorists raving, burning, killing, quietly playing chess while they wait, murdering, pilliaging and even descending into cannibalism. (I admit part of my fascination was the couple of 1960s Citroens sedans in the parade of cars. I’ve had two of them.) The extras explain that Godard demanded a continuous dolly-tracking shot alongside the traffic jam, which required all the dolly tracks available in France. Then in editing he cut it into two portions, which would have allowed them to use half of the tracks and re-lay them for the second shot. Evidently typical of how Godard often acts on the set of films he’s directing.

The gory car crashes the morally-bankrupt Parisian couple encounter along the way (without much reaction) are at the core of this misanthropic video journey.  Godard’s idea is evidently that the bored bourgeousie is not far from acting out its more homicidal fantasies on anyone around. Another of his points is made by the lead actress who who is screaming after a horrific car accident—but only because her Hermes handbag was left behind in the burning car.   It is surreally funny in a very black way, and also very disturbing. Others feel is it is one of the defining films of the 20th Century. Perhaps so, but personally, I don’t want to see it again.

—John Sunier

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