I've thrown rocks at cops in protest rallies in my angsty youth, if nothing else at least I can understand anger and outrage as expression of political sentiment. I can also understand the folly of that violence. With a film like Week End, do we give Godard his satire or do we bemoan how blunt it is?
Inasmuch as the film is an opportunity to express politics rather than a forum to discuss them, I'm willing it to give Godard the stage to see what he has to say. Is the vehicular havoc of the beginning "a scene of Parisian life", perhaps, Paris is notorious for its traffic jams, but the famous tracking shot that defines this part of the movie plays out like a tableaux of Tati humour, except there's no charm in its delicacy, the intended effect is horn-blaring cacophony. It gets the point across, this is a world of madness and hysteria we're tracking through.
But what about the politics expressed here, once the amusing novelty wears off what happens inside this apocalyptic landscape of provincial roads littered with corpses and wrecked cars? A film doesn't need to resort to protest rally sloganeering to be agitprop, but when it does, when it quotes from Marx and Engels, when the US and Israel is the source of evil (curiously enough, France is not singled out among the imperialists), when the actual problems of Africa are trivialized in the manner of reading from a pamphlet, does that reveal a filmmaker who doesn't know any better or one that does but chooses to obfuscate the bigger picture to promote an ideology?
I guess I'm wondering if the malice is naive or deliberate. If it was any other filmmaker I might begin to consider that the intended message is also an object of outrage and ricidule, but for someone who was a proclaimed Maoist, I can't help but shudder at the thought that he means what he says.
Godard seems to me like he's the bourgeoisie of cinema, exactly what he despises. Having solved his apparent problems, he turns to the world to find a source of vexation to complain about. There's an insatiable hunger here to point out wrongs and shake fists in the air, nothing to love or embrace or attempt to understand. If he's not sneering at his own countrymen, he will speak on behalf of blacks or Arabs or he will make idiotic claims about modern music. His little reenactment of a revolution in the Parisian countryside is a mockery of that revolution.
To paraphrase the words of one of his characters, likely there are more terrifying things to contemplate than the strange nature of man, but Godard can't even contemplate that strange nature. Likely he can understand it, he's an intelligent film mind and in the first few minutes seemingly without effort he creates a marvelous game of deceit, but he's too busy humiliating it, too busy trying to provoke a response to really evoke something. Fin du cinema, only for him maybe.
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