Siân (fox_in_sand) wrote in jeanluc_godard,
Siân
fox_in_sand
jeanluc_godard

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Le Weekend was the sixth Godard film I’ve seen, and the most challenging.  I wouldn’t say I enjoyed it exactly but it was interesting.  It shows a bourgeois French couple who set out for her parents place in the country to secure her inheritance – if necessary by murdering her father.  This entails a chaotic car journey through a French countryside, with more and more violent car accidents as the film progresses (turning into murder, rape and cannibalism), interspersed by increasingly surreal vignettes, containing everything from delineations of the class struggle to artistic expression of all kinds, from Mozart to Mondrian.  The couple are always either bored or even hostile to the art; when they come across Emily Bronte in the woods and she ignores their request for directions, telling them artistic conundrums instead, they burn her to death saying that she is only a fictional character.

Godard is even more reliant in this film on Brechtian alienation technique (Verfremdungseffekt), wherein a film should not cause the spectator to emotionally identify with the action before him or her, but should instead provoke rational self-reflection and a critical view of the actions on display.  This is done by sudden intertitles which interrupt the action, like at the beginning: A Film Found on a Scrap Heap, long sequences of characters talking directly to the camera, and by the character’s own awareness of the film, for instance when they find Emily Bronte they say this isn’t a book, it’s a film!  Film is life!

However, I found that I enjoyed this far less than I have enjoyed other Verfremdungseffekt pieces, although I think this was Godard’s intention.  He described himself as a Maoist at the time as so was increasingly pissed off with his films, that heavily critised the bourgeoisie, actually gained the appreciation of the bourgeoisie, so this film was a way of rubbing their noses in the vicious, callous world they supported.  Having said this, the film is far more complex than being simply Godard’s soapbox; it gives no obvious answers to the hellish world created on film.   And given how hellish it is, the celebration of art in the film sits uncomfortably alongside.

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I was also confused with his identification as a maoist and La Chinoise as to me its a complete critique of the student marxist movement and their self-delusionals and hypocrisy.
I haven't seen that one yet, but I was confused with his identification as a Maoist when Weekend was made at the time of the Cultural Revolution, which was a very anti-intellectual campaign in the chinese arts, and this film celebrates those very arts.

But I do know that many communists, whilst they had criticisms of the Maoist and Soviet governments between each other, would not always admit this to non-communists as a form of solidarity-don't know whether this had anything to do with it. Having said what I just said too, I'm not sure how much the western world knew about the Cultural Revolution at the time.

Also (and I say this without having seen La Chinoise so do correct me), I wonder whether he was criticising the student marxist movement because they were a pale imitation of what he considered real marxism, not that he found marxism itself hypocritcal?
Yeah I don't think the West really knew the extent of what was happening in China at the time, France really idealised Mao's China. It seems so naive in retrospect.

I know he didn't identify as a Maoist for long..like most of hte people involved in May 68, it was kind of a passing political fad I think, especially when people realised how fucked the Chinese regime was.

You're probably right, he was criticising the students and unquestioning dogmatic believers of Mao in La Chinoise. It's funny because I watch that film and the radical socialists at my uni are just as delusional... It's a great film, although suffocating..
We only have Trotskyists at my uni. They're awful, and certainly delusional.
Yeah, I also just watched this one for the first time and found it fairly unpleasant. As far as him expressing frustration and using the techniques for evil that he'd previously been using for good, it's certainly quite what you'd expect. Seems maybe like more of a movie he'd make for himself, to work out his artistic issues. I don't know. It seems too crass, where his previous work manages to feel very delicate despite itself.
What you say about him making it for himself to work out artistic issues fits very well, it's so disjointed and contains so many different ideas! He could've easily made three films out of the material. Despite it being by far my least favourite Godard, it gave me so much to think about I want to watch it again now (although I'm not sure I could bear it!).
*La Chinoise* (March 1967): positive side of the social revolution -- Brecht’s Dialectical Theater.
*Le Weekend* (September-October 1967): negative side of the social revolution -- Artaud’s Theater of Cruelty.

*Weekend is a sequel to La Chinoise: Jean-Pierre Léaud -- from Guillaume to Saint Just

I highly recommend this essay, James Roy McBean, “Weekend or the Self-Critical Cinema of Cruelty” (1975)
Thank you for this-I've got some reading to do now, and I'm going to relish it!
Do you mean James Guillaume by the way?