I’ll be honest and say that I’ve really tried to love the work of Jean-Luc Godard, and with the exception of Breathless, it’s just not happening. I truly appreciate his films, but it’s not love at first sight for me like it is with Truffaut.
In my quest to find a Godard film that really rocks my world, I went to a screening of Week End at the International Film Series on the CU-Boulder campus. They’re pretty much the only local theater that still shows films on 35mm, so it’s a treat to go see older Hollywood and foreign classics on an actual film print.
Week End is said to mark the end of Godard’s period as a “popular” filmmaker. The plot follows a couple (Mireille Darc and Jean Yanne), who are plotting to kill the wife’s father in order to inherit his fortune. They both have plans to kill each other off so that the inheritance won’t have to be split, as they both have lovers on the side.
The film starts with the couple driving off to pick up the father in another town, but most of these plotlines that have been set up in the beginning kind of go out the window for the rest of the movie. This is definately a case of “the journey is more important than the end destination.”
The road trip starts with a famous long tracking shot of a traffic jam along a country road. We see people playing chess, throwing balls back and forth, sitting on the side of the road, all accompanied by the incessant honking of horns. It’s a shot that invokes a kind of lightness and whimsy, only to be smothered by the horrific revelation of the cause of the traffic jam: an accident that has left a family dead on the side of the road.
There are plenty more such accidents as the film goes on, including one involving our leading couple. Left to travel the rest of the way on foot, they meet character after character. It’s almost difficult to tell what is real and what is a fantasy, or maybe there are people like this in real life. Even the protagonists occasionally make comments that reference the fact that they are in a movie, or question what is real or not.
Eventually the couple reaches their destination and learns that the father has passed away, but his wife won’t split the inheritance they way they want, so they murder her. Then the whole thing goes in a totally different direction as they once again find themselves in the woods with unscrupulous company.
There are intertitles, spelled out in bright colors on a black background. The color in the movie is vibrant the entire time, even the blood looks slightly too red. The film was definately a visual feast, even if I felt myself grappling with the subject matter at times, and is definately a political film, a commentary on class and society.
It’s a dark picture that Godard paints. Even though the first half of the movie feels like a black comedy, the protagonists are selfish and shallow people that are hard to identify with or even like.
I think I’ve come to the conclusion that I’ll never love Godard, but will always have a great admiration for his work. His films are like a breath of fresh air for me. They’re challenging, and still amazingly new feeling even after all these years. There truly isn’t another director like him.