There are movies, and then there’s "Weekend". The 15th and final film in the ’movie stage’ of Jean-Luc Godard’s career - after this he moved onto political video essays; the ’Fin’ that closes "Weekend" has a ’du Cinema’ tacked underneath it - is vile, acidic, and impossible to resist. Godard’s contempt for everything (his characters, his narrative, his audience) oozes throughout. It’s quite unpleasant. It’s also a masterpiece, and one of my favorite films.
With its sexy construction, diversions towards philosophy, intertitles, and satiric bent, it starts off ’innocently enough’ as a ’normal’ Godard movie. For 10 minutes, it’s not that much different from "2 or 3 Things...." Or "Pierrot le Fou." But this is the one where he crosses the line. It’s a full-scale assault on the cinematic form, and on what Godard saw as the bourgeois politics of the late ’60s French Middle Class (an extra feature informs us that, at the time of shooting, he ’discovered’ he was a Marxist-Leninist.)
They might seem like disconnected subjects, sure. But when you reach the 7-minute tracking shot of a never ending traffic jam, you begin to realize that Godard’s vision is a bit more cohesive than it may seem. Then, by the time our two main characters are hitchhiking from narrative-to-narrative and getting quizzed on whether they’d "rather be screwed by Mao, or Johnson?" you know all bets are off.
And so you get extremely explicit sexual dialogue - with a loud score that drowns out the raciest parts (an effect lost thanks to the subtitles - something that itself proves Godard’s "Language is the house that man lives in" maxim.) You get Godard’s usual beautiful color cinematography; only with a much darker, sinister hue. You get a direct plot setup (a couple of cheating spouses set out to off everyone around them for insurance money) that leads to a series of entirely divergent asides (cannibalistic hippies, for one.) You get, to quote one of the first frames, "A film adrift in the cosmos, a movie found in a trash heap."
Thanks be to Criterion for releasing this long unavailable marvel, perhaps the best film in Godard’s irreproachable run 7-year 15-film as the cinema’s pre-eminent artist. Some of the extras - a video essay, and a French behind-the-scenes featurettes - are disposable. But interviews with members of Godard’s crew, including the legendary cinematographer Raoul Coutard, shine a bright light on many of the film’s more eccentric ambiguities.
If you like to know what you’re getting into when you watch a movie, for God’s sake, please avoid "Weekend." This is a densely intellectual, formally audacious, and blatantly contemptuous work of cinema. I love it.