Week End (Godard, 1967)

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.”

Un gars et une fille

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.

The End of Cinema

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15 Responses to Week End (Godard, 1967)

  1. kimalysong says:

    Breathless is the only Godard film I enjoyed too (funny because Truffaut actually worked on that with him). I haven’t seen much of the other French New Wave directors (except Resnais Hiroshima Mon Amour) but out of Truffaut and Godard, I much prefer Truffaut.

    And although who they are as people shouldn’t affect my opinion. I also always liked Truffaut as a person more than Godard as well. Many things Godard has said have always rubbed me the wrong way. While I don’t always agree with Truffaut, at least he always came off as someone who genuinely loved cinema.

    Of course I don’t want to dismiss Godard because he is extremely important to film history (and I am glad the Academy finally honored him in some way last year) but he will never be a favorite of mine.

    • I totally agree with you. Have you seen Two in the Wave? It’s a documentary about Truffaut and Godard up until their falling out, and I think it’s up on Netflix Instant. It was pretty cool, there weren’t any talking head interviews, but a lot of old interview footage of them together and separately. I thought it gave a nice little glimpse of who they both were as people and as filmmakers, and the two divergent paths they took with their work.

      • kimalysong says:

        I just saw this comment (strangely enough on another blog, never knew Word Press could do that).

        I have not seen that documentary, I would love too but alas I no longer have Netflix. Maybe it will air on TCM one day, that would be nice.

  2. KimWilson says:

    Godard is Godard. He has made few films that I think warrant him being so revered. He has always played second and third fiddle to Truffaut and Louis Malle. The sad thing is that while these two men died relatively young, Godard lives on and continues to make almost unbearable films.

    • Thanks for the comment!
      I think some people put him ahead of Truffaut when comparing the two head to head (which is probably best not to do, but it happens), so I think a lot of one’s own personal likes in movies dictate which director you’re going to gravitate more naturally to. I haven’t seen any of Godard’s more recent stuff, but maybe one day in the future. I am a Truffaut girl through and through, but I still get a lot out of watching Godard’s work.
      Thanks for reading!

  3. Rick29 says:

    Lindsay, I haven’t seen this Godard film, but have watched other ones such as BREATHLESS, ALPHAVILLE, and CONTEMPT. I think he is an acquired taste. You’re right…his films are challenging and that makes them often intriguing and also frustrating. Like you, BREATHLESS is my fave of those I’ve seen.

    • I still have to see Alphaville, which I’m actually kind of excited to watch. I might be slowly coming around, there’s still a lot of his 1960s work that I have yet to see. Thanks for reading!

  4. R. D. Finch says:

    Lindsay, I saw many of Godard’s earlier films when I was in college and found most of them to be a chore to watch, which is something I can’t say about even a lesser film of Truffaut. I found only “Weekend” (the only film of his I’ve seen that I can honestly say I liked) and “Contempt” to be fully realized and accessible films. I like “Breathless” well enough but find that it has too many quirks that try my patience to make it fully enjoyable, although Belmondo’s performance is certainly riveting. I think of Godard as one of those directors whose main appeal is to those who are looking for a conceptual experience, which of course makes him great for writing about but tedious to watch.

    • Chore is a good way to put it! I watched Breathless on my own, but Contempt and Vivre sa vie in classes in college. I acutally got into Vivre sa vie more than Contempt, but the latter has been nagging me to re-watch it. I think after seeing a Godard film I usually walk out slightly confused and ambivalent about the film, but upon further contemplation, they grow on me. That’s in comparison to Truffaut, whose work I enjoy during and after watching. Thanks for the comment!

  5. Jandy says:

    Godard is definitely an acquired taste, and as a Godard aficionado myself, even I have trouble really liking films like Week End. There are things ABOUT Week End that I like very much, but by the end it’s gone too far off the rails for me.

    My favorite Godard films are Band of Outsiders, Pierrot le fou, and Vivre sa vie. They strike a balance between genre homage, postmodern playfulness, formal experimentation, and political awareness that’s pretty spot-on perfect. Also, I have a huge girlcrush on Anna Karina. So there’s that.

  6. Jandy says:

    Oh, and I also meant to say, yeah, it’s rarely love at first sight for me with Godard, either. Of the ones I mention above as my favorites, the only one that was love at first sight was Band of Outsiders. The others took at least two or three viewings to really seep under my skin. Same with Contempt, same with Breathless, even.

    I’ve given Week End two viewings, though, and it’s still not up there. Maybe after a few more, it’ll click…but I’m not too hopeful.

    • I know what you mean about the ending. I was pretty into the film up until the whole cannibals part. I still have to see Pierrot le fou, Band of Outsiders and Une femme est une femme. You’re right about his films being a great pastiche of elements that are balanced really well, and I think that’s why they lend themselves to almost needing repeat viewings. Thanks for reading and for the comment!

      • Jandy says:

        Yep, the cannibals lose me every time. Ah, Une femme est une femme is another really fun one, not a chore at all. 🙂 I think you hit it on the head in your reply to R.D. Finch. Truffaut is easy to watch and enjoy and love, but Godard takes a bit more effort. I find Godard films stay with me longer, but they’re both among my favorite filmmakers.

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