Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Weekend (1967)

I really wish I liked this movie. When I say that, I mean not to imply that I should dig it just 'cause it's a classic and I should be down with all the cool kids 'n' shit. No, what I mean is that I wish I liked this film because, for the first two-thirds of it, it's one of the most compelling visions of societal breakdown I've seen. Jean-Luc Godard, in his disgust at the state of things circa '67, shows us his view of the scorched-earth endgame result of uncontrolled capitalism. He's envisioned a society where everything is being wrecked and the only form of social interaction is hosility. The famed traffic-jam sequence (as spellbinding a feat of filmmaking as anyone's ever conceived) is only the begining of the breakdown. Devotion to materialism has curdled the soul of the world; we can see this by how it has curdled the souls of our protagonists. Note, for instance, the early scene in which the "exterminating angel" ("Even God has his police") tells the travelling couple that he can give them anything they want, and they respond with requests for material goods. (Note, also, the reference to Luis Bunuel's earlier, far more brilliant castigation of upper-class corruption.) Later, the couple runs across a woman who has climbed out of a wrecked car and cries not for her injuries but for the destruction of her handbag. Still later, they encounter a peaceable couple in a forest who declaim "If they buy knowledge, it is only to resell it." (The scene in the forest reminds me of a line from Bill Hicks, another uncompromising satirist: "Maybe we left the Garden too soon.") As Our Heroes (?) move on, the film gets more caustic and more absurd, and therein lies the problem: It's impressive that the film is unafraid to indulge in absurdity and surrealism to make its points, but the fundamental anger behind that absurdity starts to feel all-consuming the longer the film goes. The tough, inflammatory rhetoric begins to fall on ears numbed by too-muchness. (This is the cinematic equivalent of someone screaming in your face for two hours.) Also, Godard seemingly begins to mistrust his audience's intelligence and overstates himself. It's one thing to give us a quick shot of the protagonists mingling in a flock of sheep, but it's quite another to stop the film cold and give us a history lecture (as Godard does here right before the film's so-what climax). Godard's technical know-how is, as always, astonishing, and I think this is a valuable film. However, it allows itself to be torn to shreds by its own anger, and I can't abide by that.

Grade: C+


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home