Le Weekend - Film (Movie) Plot and Review


France-Italy 1967

Director: Jean-Luc Godard

Production: Films Copernic, Comacico, and Lira Films (France) and Ascot-CineraĂŻd (Rome); Eastmancolor, 35mm; running time: 95 minutes, English version is 103 minutes. Released September 1967, Venice Film Festival. Filmed September-October 1967 around Paris.

Screenplay: Jean-Luc Godard; assistant director: Claude Miller; photography: Raoul Coutard; editor: Agnès Guillemot; sound: René Lavert; music: Antoine Duhamel, from Mozart, Piano Sonata, K. 576.

Cast: Mireille Darc ( Corinne ); Jean Yanne ( Roland ); Jean-Pierre Kalfon ( F.L.S.O. Leader ); Valérie Lagrange ( His companion ); Jean-Pierre Léaud ( Saint-Just/Man in phone booth ); Yves Beneyton ( F.L.S.O. member ); Paul Gégauff ( Pianist ); Daniel Pommereulle ( Joseph Balsamo ); Virginie Vignon ( Marie-Madeleine ); Yves Alfonso ( Tom Thumb ); Blandine Jeanson ( Emily Brontë/Young woman in farmyard ); Ernest Menzer ( Cook ); Georges Staquet ( Tractor driver ); Juliet Berto ( Woman in car crash/F.L.S.O. member ); Anne Wiazemsky ( Woman in farmyard/F.L.S.O. member ); Jean Eustache ( Hitchhiker );
J. C. Guilbert ( Tramp ).



Godard, Jean-Luc, Weekend , Paris, 1968; in Weekend and Wind from the East: Two Films by Jean-Luc Godard , London and New York, 1972.


Mussman, Toby, editor, Jean-Luc Godard: A Critical Anthology , New York, 1968.

Cameron, Ian, editor, The Films of Jean-Luc Godard , London, 1969.

Mancini, Michele, Godard , Rome, 1969.

Roud, Richard, Jean-Luc Godard , 2nd edition, New York, 1970.

Goldmann, Annie, Cinéma et societé moderne: Le cinéma de 1968 à 1968: Godard, Antonioni, Resnais, Robbe-Grillet , Paris, 1971.

Brown, Royal, editor, Focus on Godard , Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, 1972.

Godard on Godard , edited by Tom Milne, London, 1972; as Godard on Godard: Critical Writings , edited by Milne and Jean Narboni, New York, 1986.

Farassino, Alberto, Jean-Luc Godard , Florence, 1974.

MacBean, James Roy, Film and Revolution , Bloomington, Indiana, 1975.

Monaco, James, The New Wave , New York, 1976.

Braudy, Leo, The World in a Frame , New York, 1977.

Houston, Beverle, and Marsha Kinder, Self and Cinema: A Transformalist Perspective , New York, 1980.

MacCabe, Colin, Godard: Images, Sounds, Politics , London, 1980.

Walsh, Martin, The Brechtian Aspect of Radical Cinema , London, 1981.

Lefèvre, Raymond, Jean-Luc Godard , Paris, 1983.

Bordwell, David, Narration in the Fiction Film , London, 1985.

Weis, Elisabeth, and John Belton, Film Sound: Theory and Practice , New York, 1985.

Cerisuelo, Marc, Jean-Luc Godard , Paris, 1989.

Loshitzky, Yosefa, Radical Faces of Godard and Bertolucci , Detroit, 1995.

Dixon, Wheeler Winston, The Films of Jean-Luc Godard , Albany, 1997.

Silverman, Kaja, and Harun Farocki, Speaking About Godard , New York, 1998.

Sterritt, David, The Films of Jean-Luc Godard: Seeing the Invisible , Cambridge, 1999.


Capdenac, Michel, in Lettres Françaises (Paris), 9 January 1968.

Moskowitz, Gene, in Variety (New York), 10 January 1968.

Lefèvre, Raymond, in Image et Son (Paris), February 1968.

Salachas, Gilbert, in Téléciné (Paris), February 1968.

Collet, Jean, and Jacques Aumont, "Le Dur Silence des galaxies— Weekend ," in Cahiers du Cinéma , (Paris), March 1968.

Delmas, Jean, " Le Weekend : Un Utile Exercise qui s'appelle: Chine," in Cinéma (Paris), May 1968.

Taddei, Nazereno, in Bianco e Nero (Rome), May-June 1968.

Dawson, Jan, in Sight and Sound (London), Summer 1968.

Powell, Dilys, "The Manic Side of Godard," in Sunday Times (London), 7 July 1968.

Hobson, Harold, in Christian Science Monitor (Boston), 29 July 1968.

Millar, Gavin, in Monthly Film Bulletin (London), August 1968.

Kael, Pauline, in New Yorker , 5 October 1968.

Adler, Renata, in New York Times , 27 October 1968.

Medjuck, Joe, in Take One (Montreal), no. 11, 1968.

Time (New York), November 1968.

MacBean, James Roy, "Godard's Weekend ; or, The Self-Critical Cinema of Cruelty," in Film Quarterly (Berkeley), Winter 1968.

Wood, Robin, in Movie (London), Winter 1968.

Whitehead, Peter, in Films and Filming (London), February 1969.

Henderson, Brian, "Toward a Non-Bourgeois Camera Style," in Movies and Methods , edited by Bill Nichols, Berkeley, 1976.

Dolfi, Glen, in Cinema Texas Program Notes (Austin), 2 May 1978.

Fisher, R., " Weekend Cinematographer Discusses His Style," in Millimeter (New York), April 1979.

Nicholls, D., "Godard's Weekend : Totem, Taboo, and the Fifth Republic," in Sight and Sound (London), Winter 1979–80.

"Godard Issue" of Camera Obscura (Berkeley), Fall 1982.

Lovell, Alan, "Epic Theater and Counter Cinema," in Jump Cut (Berkeley), April 1983.

Goldschmidt, D., and P. Le Guay, interview with Agnes Guillemot, in Cinématographe (Paris), March 1985.

Durgnat, Raymond, "Jean-Luc Godard: His Crucifixion and Resurrection," in Monthly Film Bulletin (London), September 1985.

"Godard Issue" of Revue Belge du Cinéma (Brussels), Summer 1986.

Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), no. 437 (supp.), November 1990.

Romney, Jonathan, "Militant Tendency," in Time Out (London), vol. 1099, 11 September 1991.

"Lontano dal Vietnam," in Castoro Cinema (Milan), part 1, no. 176, March/April, 1996.

Rosenbaum, Jonathan, "Godard in the Nineties: An Interview, Argument and Scrapbook," in Film Comment (New York), vol. 34, no. 5, September-October 1998.

* * *

Weekend is perhaps the most problematic film of the modern cinema's most problematic (if arguably most important) filmmaker. The problem lies partly in the complexity of the issues involved. There are the difficulties of the film itself, difficulties of obscurity in meaning, but also those arising from the nature of its radicalism, plus the wider difficulties concerning the whole 20th-century political and aesthetic debate centered on "realism" vs. "modernism."

The dominant tradition of cinema, since its inception (the Lumière films of 1895), has been "realist" (a better word might be "illusionist"), based on deceiving the audience into believing they are seeing reality instead of an artificial construct. Even documentary and the newsreel are based on principles of selection and juxtaposition; reality in art can never be unmediated. This illusion of reality can easily become (and without awareness, inevitably becomes) a disguise under cover of which the dominant ideology (i.e. bourgeois, patriarchal capitalism) reproduces and reinforces itself: the representation of physical reality becomes the guarantee of a "truth" that is in fact ideological. Hence the first duty of the radical filmmaker is to shatter the dominant modes of representation—to destroy the illusion, to overthrow the tyranny of narrative. In our century, the cinema (with "reality" apparently guaranteed by the camera—"the truth 24 times a second," as Godard remarked in his earlier days, or "lies 24 times a second," as he subsequently reformulated it) has been the last stronghold of traditional realist art, a tradition long since challenged in literature and painting. Godard's work has been central to the emergence and development of a modernist cinema, and Weekend is one of the key texts in that development.

The fundamental rule of a classical cinema is that everything serves the narrative: settings, characterization, realistic detail, style, presentation, etc. The narrative of Weekend might be linked to a clothesline: it is a necessity for hanging the wash, but what is interesting and important are the garments, linens, etc., that it sustains. The rejection of realism/illusionism and narrative dominance is at once achieved by and makes possible (it is difficult here to distinguish cause and effect) a number of strategies. For example: there are references to the film as a film (introductory captions tell us it is "a film found on the scrap-heap" and "film astray in the cosmos," and the male protagonist complains about the craziness of the movie he's in); references to other films (Buñuel's The Exterminating Angel, Johnny Guitar, Saga of Gosta Berling , and Battleship Potemkin—The Searchers are code names on the walkie-talkies while the Renoir and Truffaut references are telescoped in the caption "Arizona Jules"); printed captions throughout the film are used as interruptions which are frequently more enigmatic than explanatory; and, finally, Weekend is largely composed of digressions, its plot being capable of summation in a couple of sentences. Other strategies include: the use of direct address to the camera, monologue, and interview ( Weekend contains an interesting—and exceptionally distancing—variation on this in the "Third World" section where the black African and Algerian garbage-collectors speak for each other, one staring insolently into the camera while the other, off-screen, speaks his thoughts); the foregrounding of camera-technique, as in the celebrated tracking shot along the seemingly interminable traffic jam where the camera moves steadily, imperturbably, refusing to privilege any incident or detail by linering, as well as the three 360-degree circular tracks around the farmyard during the lecture on a Mozart piano sonata; and, finally, the intrusion into the film of a number of characters superfluous to the narrative, some historical, some fictitious, and in certain cases played by the same actor (St. Just and the young man in the phone-booth, Emily Brontë—dressed as Alice-in-Wonderland—and the pianist/lecturer's assistant.)

Instead of the closed text of classical narrative, in which an omniscient author (the connection of the term to "authority" is important) leads the reader/viewer step by step towards a position of "knowledge" (which corresponds to the imposition of a value-system), we have the open text of modernism. The author ("enunciator" has become the preferred term) foregrounds himself, and in a sense discredits himself. The lack of coherent narrative frees the viewer, making him the active explorer of an open-ended network of data, references, statements, and positions. The voices that speak within the film are not structured or "placed" in relation to a dominant discourse; we are not told how we must listen to them. So, at least, runs the argument. One can accept it up to a point; certainly, as a challenge to dominant forms and dominant norms, Godard has been salutary and indispensable.

Nevertheless, Weekend is a film towards which, as time passes, one feels increasingly less indulgent. When it appeared (after the events of May '68, but made before them), it seemed uncannily prescient, its formal, aesthetic, and political anarchism exhilarating and liberating. Yet there were always doubts—an uneasiness, a squeamishness , which the film itself seemed to define as "bourgeois," and scoffed at one for feeling. Clearly in intention it is a film about the brutalization of contemporary capitalist society, but it is also in effect a brutalizing film. This becomes explicit in one of its final statements, where we are told that the horror of the bourgeoisie must be countered with even greater horror. In practice, the results of the theoretical argument outlined here became increasingly ambiguous. The abdication from "authority" can be read as Godard's somewhat disingenuous denial of responsibility, (" I am not making these statements, voices in the film are making them"—voices which Godard has chosen and permitted to speak). The overthrow of "realism" (the blood is obviously red paint, the film is a film) becomes a means of allowing us to find degradation (especially of women), slaughter and cannibalism funny . One cannot resist the suggestion that Godard is using revolutionary politics as an excuse for indulging a number of very unpleasant fantasies of sexuality and violence.

The film constructs a position for the viewer just as surely as any classical narrative (true, that position contains a certain ambivalence, but that is a phenomenon scarcely alien to classical cinema). The presentation, in the final third of the film, of the band of revolutionary guerillas is crucial to this. Godard is careful not to endorse them in any obvious, unequivocal way. Their activities are made to appear largely ridiculous and pointless, unsupported by any coherent body of revolutionary theory. Yet he is plainly fascinated by them; their very emptiness and dehumanization provide the necessary conditions for the fantasies of violence that a constructive radical position could only impede. The attitude found in the later Vent d'Est that could explicitly encourage the placing of bombs in supermarkets and label "bourgeois" any scruples we might feel about this is already fully present in Weekend . Foregrounding the mechanics of cinema and the process of narration by no means guarantees ideological awareness (on the part of either the filmmaker or the spectator): that is just as pernicious a myth as its corollary, that all realist art necessarily reinforces the dominant ideology.

—Robin Wood

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