Jean-Luc Godard ended the New Wave part of his career by famously declaring ”the end of film” in the closing shot of Weekend. Much like some of the preachy revolutionaries seen in the film, Godard became an ardent Marxist-Leninist and abandoned narrative cinema in favor of various political art projects, such as the Jane Fonda collaboration Tout Va Bien (1972). You might say Weekend is one hell of a way to end a chapter; this crazy mess is one of the director’s most discussed films.
Planning sinister things
Corinne and Roland Durand (Mireille Darc, Jean Yanne) are married to each other, if that matters. They both have lovers and they both plan sinister things. They’re going to drive out in the country to see Corinne’s parents. Her father is dying and they need to secure her inheritance. If things don’t go their way, the Durands intend to murder her parents. They’re also likely to end up killing each other. On their way out in the country, they keep passing bloody accidents and run into strange characters, many of them armed…
Obsessed with consumerism and greed
Where did Godard find inspiration for his film? Argentine writer Julio Cortázar once told his English translator that the director was offered to film a short story he had written, ”La autopista del Sur”, without realizing where it came from. If this is true or not is perhaps less relevant; the director truly made it his own film. Weekend is a satire depicting a bourgeoisie obsessed with consumerism and greed, symbolized by the Durands who really have it all but are willing to destroy each other and themselves in the pursuit of greater wealth. They’re so inconsiderate they can’t even get from one place to another without carelessly crashing into things with their car.
We can also see the message in the grotesquely hilarious traffic accidents, where one wreck after another pile up during the journey, the passengers’ blood sprayed across windshields and pouring down the road where the Durands are driving. In the film’s second half, the political ideas become more outspoken as the couple engage with revolutionaries who do a lot of talking while the Durands look bored. They also engage in cannibalism, because why not? It’s all a colorful, grand summation of what Godard has been up to in cinema since his breakthrough, constantly toying with genres and the medium itself, while also showing great care and love for it, as seen in a famous tracking shot depicting an insane line of cars trying to pass the scene of an accident. There are also literary and historical references, with Antoine Doinel himself, Jean-Pierre Léaud, playing two roles, one of them an 18th-century revolutionary leader.
We can expect anything to happen in this film, and it usually does. It’s a loud movie. People are constantly arguing, shouting or firing pistols. Music and noise come and go without much of a purpose other than to rub us the wrong way, as in a scene where Corinne, very explicitly, tells her lover about a sexual encounter she had, much of it recognizable from a scandalous novel by Georges Bataille.
Weekend is designed to generate an emotional response, be it laughter, anger or frustration. That it became Godard’s break with his past before embarking on a revolutionary new path, the year before May 68, seems obvious now.
Weekend 1967-France. 105 min. Color. Produced by Raymond Danon. Written and directed by Jean-Luc Godard. Cinematography: Raoul Cotard. Cast: Mireille Darc (Corinne Durand), Jean Yanne (Roland Durand), Paul Gégauff (The Pianist), Jean-Pierre Léaud, Blandine Jeanson, Yves Afonso.
Last word: “This movie was done with personal feeling and intuition. After the May-June events I became aware of how late I was. Weekend wasn’t done with a script. It came from a personal feeling, a personal intuition, as in Pierrot le Fou. But the intuition in Weekend was closer to the social situation in France than it was in Pierrot le Fou. It came from a clear political analysis and was then transformed into a movie.” (Godard, Rolling Stone)