Saturday, 20 February 2010



I'm not really a philistine. I'll be the first to acknowledge that Bicycle Thieves is beautifully made and emotionally powerful, but after a hard day at the coal face I'm never going to choose it over Bride Of ReAnimator for an evening's entertainment. Jean-Luc Godard may be more politically radical and more cinematically adventurous, but he doesn't have a scene like that bit in A Nightmare On Elm Street 4 where a hot girl is turned into a cockroach and shoved in a matchbox. Though after more than 90 minutes of tedious anti-bourgeoise hectoring it wouldn't have surprised me.

1967's Weekend actually starts off in relatively coherent fashion as an affluent professional couple seek to inherit a fortune by bumping off some relatives (Down with the evil middle classes!) in the mode of Kind Hearts And Coronets (Down with the aristocracy!). After a merciless unbroken shot (Down with editing!) in which the wife describes at length a threesome in nauseatingly pornographic detail (Down with sexual hypocrites! They're no better than the working classes!) they get stuck in a traffic jam in another lengthy take in which the camera crew can occasionally be seen reflected in car windows. Along the road are such noteworthy events as some people playing chess in the road (intellectuals watching as the world goes to hell), a bloke peeing up a tree (man's disregard for nature) and a Shell tanker (oil will be key to the collapse of Western civilisation).

Once past the jam they find themselves in some sort of post-apocalyptic nightmare landscape in which fact, fiction and history seem to merge: the 18th Century revolutionary Louis Saint-Just (Down with the revolution!) blathers to camera about I don't know what, and Emily Bronte turns up talking rubbish in a forest while dressed as Alice In Wonderland (Down with gender conventions in Gothic literature!). They get a lift with a bloke who plays the piano in a farmyard (Down with the class-based exclusivity of Art! The proletariat shall have Mozart sonatas!). They are hijacked by a couple of ranting lunatics with guns (Down with ranting lunatics with guns!). They end up working on a bin lorry eating small fragments of a baguette (Down with French loaves!) and listening to ceasless diatribes about Western oppression of the Third World (Down with America!). Eventually they arrive at their destination two weeks late, get disinherited, and join up with a bunch of hippie cannibals (Down with pre-packaged foods!) in the woods. The Radio Times film guide claims they're Maoist cannibals; I wouldn't know for sure but they do have a drum kit.

The single take tracking shot of the traffic jam is admittedly a breathtaking one, but it's to no effect whatsoever in a film designed for maximum dullness. Not only was it boring me, it was boring my sofa. What's the point of it? Where's it going? Because there has to be more to it than incomprehensible finger-wagging Bolshevik agitprop and increasingly anarchic and surreal incidents (doubtless the collapse of the capitalist power structure is mirrored with the collapse of narrative conventions. Oh Jean-Luc, you are a card!). Now I'm not entirely sure how Mousieur Godard has come to be so highly revered in critical circles if this meandering and humourless codswallop is typical of his career - this may be the duffer in an otherwise fascinating oeuvre - so I'll probably give him another go sometime, but right now I need to cleanse my cerebral cortex with back to back Saw and Hostel sequels.


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