Criterion // 1967 // 104 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Daryl Loomis // December 6th, 2012
A film adrift in the cosmos.
The more films by Jean-Luc Godard (Contempt) that I see, the more he interests me. It's not because I like every movie he directed; I very much don't. He made so many different kinds of films, though, that he's hard to ignore. Some of his work is undeniably incredible, but his films are a grab bag; sometimes, they're just awful, as evidenced by Weekend, the latest entry in the Criterion Collection.
Corinne and Robert Durand (Mireille Darc, Male Hunt, and Jean Yanne, Brotherhood of the Wolf), are a married couple that hates each other, but stick together out of convenience. In spite of their hatred, they head out on a road trip to Robert's parents, intending to send his father to his death and collect the inheritance. On the way, they are beset by tragedy, violence, and death, yet none of it registers until they are abducted by hippies in the woods.
I hated Weekend, which is kind of strange because, on the surface, it has all the trappings of something I would love. It is Godard's most violent movie, full of murder and car wrecks. It makes fun of consumerism and the bourgeois. It even features a bit of cannibalism, which is almost always a winner in my book, but it's not all about content. I found the movie frustrating, boring, and terrible. It's the kind of thing one would show to somebody to turn them off to foreign art movies forever.
It's starts off typically enough, with the husband and wife talking to their respective lovers about various mean or sexual things, including a speech recalling George Bataille's great novella The Story of the Eye (another reason that I should like this), but quickly devolves into a series of long, exceedingly long scenes of car wrecks and general awfulness.
As soon as they begin their journey, the pair finds themselves in a traffic jam that they weave through and that goes on, and I'm not kidding, for nine full minutes. All the while, horns are blaring, they yell at each other and everybody that they're cutting in front of, and it is one of the most obnoxious sequences that I've ever seen anywhere. But, while it gets a little bit quieter after that seems to go on forever, it gets ever more pretentious and they never stop bickering, not even after they see countless corpses, wreck their own car, and come across ridiculous forest characters and hippies.
Weekend is one of the most annoying film experiences I've had in some time. Godard has made interesting comedies over the years, but this is not one of them. As a satire, it's obvious and unsubtle, it's subject done so much better in other places. The characters are willfully unlikable, crass idiots, with nobody else in the film to serve as anything worthwhile.
Worse than anything, though, is the pretentious attitude of the film. Godard uses a device in which he uses title cards to move the action forward, slowly revealing the words until the message is revealed. Mostly it's fine, but then you get to the end. Like any French movie, the movie ends with a card saying "Fin," but he continues to reveal letters until it says, "Fin du Cinema." The end of cinema, indeed...I wanted to smash my television.
Weekend is more frustrating than it would otherwise have been because, on a technical level, it's so well made. Godard was at the height of his creative power and uses the long shots and bright color schemes to great effect. It's really a beautiful film made ugly by the overwrought satire and spiteful attitude. Sure, he was frustrated with the French bourgeois and predicts the political upheaval that would occur the following year, but that's more historically interesting than anything; the fact that he saw it coming doesn't make it better, it just makes Godard smart. The subject has been mined plenty of times by plenty of peopleå®¥odard includedå‚ut it really doesn't work here. Either that or maybe I've just joined the bourgeoisie and got offended. Whichever, I was mostly annoyed for two hours.
No matter how I feel about Weekend as a film, there is no doubt that Criterion has done fine work on its Blu-ray release. The 1.66:1/1080p image transfer is top notch, with a lovely new restoration that is on par with the label's usual fine work. It has been cleaned up almost entirely, with very few instances of dirt or damage. The colors look great and bright daylight scenes are strong, though there's a little bit of softness in the nighttime and shadowy forest scenes. The lossless mono mix also good, but understandably not terribly dynamic. The film is dialog driven, and all that is crisp and clear, while the explosions and gunshots pack as much of a punch from those two channels as they can.
The slate of extras isn't as extensive as some of Criterion's releases, but the included supplements are strong. We start with a half-hour video essay, entitled "Revolutions per Second," that focuses on Godard's politics with discussion about many of his film, specifically honing in on Weekend. Next, three interviews give more depth to the production. The first is with cinematographer Raoul Coutard which runs twenty minutes, next is a conversation with the two stars that's only four minutes, and finally a near half-hour piece with assistant director Claude Miller. The most interesting feature is an excerpt from a French television program, Seize millions du jeunes, that delivers on-set footage of the filming and features commentary by documentary filmmaker Jean-Michel Barjol. A pair of trailers and a booklet with essays and comments round out the disc.
Weekend has plenty of fans, but I don't count as one of them. While well-made, the satire is far too on the nose for my taste and, with an entire slate of characters that are obnoxious at best, I found it nearly unwatchable. Criterion's Blu-ray, however, is excellent and will more than satisfy those who love the film.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.66:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* PCM 1.0 Mono (French)
Running Time: 104 Minutes
Release Year: 1967
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Video Essay