Grok My Enthusiasm (2)
January 20, 2016
One in a weekly series of enthusiastic posts contributed by HILOBROW friends and regulars.
“There is nothing like it at all. It is hard to take.”
So ends Renata Adler’s Times review of Godard’s Weekend, at the 1968 NY Film Festival. Another critic called the film “a vision of hell to rival Dante”, which might seem grandiose praise — I think it fits just fine — but at least acknowledges the massive scope of this acrid, hilarious, ghastly, breathtaking document. Weekend was the 14th full-length film Godard had made in 7 years and is — inevitably, perhaps, after so much fervent effort — a cinematic immolation, self-consciously pitched to consume all that had come before.
The film starts with each half of a middle-class couple cocooned with their lovers, nursing details of depraved sex (cribbed from Bataille) and scheming to first extract an inheritance from the wife’s mother — by murder, if necessary — and then rid themselves of their spouse. On this mission, then, along with what seems like the whole population of Paris, our couple sets off for a weekend to the country. By the film’s end — and a recitation of all the crazy stuff that happens would not begin to convey the density or cost of the journey — this sliver of plot has somehow delivered us to a band of feral revolutionaries, awash in rhetoric and cannibalism. Time is long gone. Perspective, like civilization, has been abandoned. It’s genuinely hard to remember where you came in — to the story, or the theatre.
The film’s references are so rich that talking in anything but generalities is difficult. Godard’s sensibility is intensely Brechtian, you’re always watching from two (or maybe three) mental perspectives at once. The action is often fake and theatrical. The camera angles leap between deliberate flatness and shocking lyricism. The jokes are more biting than the Coen Brothers. And everything has a frame that — again and again and again, especially the laughs, especially the beauty — knocks you a step back to remember this insanity is happening in your world, too.
There is an unbroken 8-minute shot tracking along a traffic jam. There are so many car accidents that the idea becomes a persuasive metaphor for social failure. That the blood comes in the color of bright poster paint and the quantities of emptied buckets doesn’t undo the horror, but instead make plain that each tableau is an emblem of human misunderstanding to be parsed with dread, like a stage station in a medieval play. Or like the Inferno, another vision somehow so completely fabricated and still so damning. Weekend cracks open the idea of what a film can be, what an artist’s social engagement might mean, what moral responsibility we might demand of spectatorship.
All of these as live questions! It’s incredibly exciting! It’s soul-sapping! Watch the trailer and track this down!
GROK MY ENTHUSIASM: Rob Wringham on THE THEORY AND PRACTICE OF LUNCH | Gordon Dahlquist on WEEKEND | Joe Alterio on MILLION YEAR PICNIC | Adrienne Crew on LA BARONNE EMILE D’ERLANGER | Josh Glenn on THE SURVIVAL SAMPLER | Alix Lambert on THE SKIES BELONG TO US | Adam McGovern on PENELOPE and CHAVEZ RAVINE | Rob Wringham on THE LYKE WAKE WALK | Mark Kingwell on NORTH STAR SNEAKERS & GWG JEANS | Gordon Dahlquist on FELLINI SATYRICON | Erik Davis on AH! | Devin McKinney on WHISPERING AFRAID | Mimi Lipson on 1973 SEARS ROEBUCK CATALOG | Jessamyn West on MOSS | Josh Glenn on THE SCOUT HOW BOOK | Brian Berger on SLACKER | Alix Lambert on ABSOLUTE BEGINNERS | Chelsey Johnson on MONOTREMES | Devin McKinney on THE BUTCHER COVER | Flourish Klink on ONE DIRECTION | Gordon Dahlquist on FULL METAL JACKET | Allegra Huston on CLOTHESLINE | Jenny Davidson on POWERLIFTING | Evan Narcisse on REZ | Deborah Wassertzug on VEGETARIAN MEATBALLS | Chris Spurgeon on WALLACE AND GROMIT | Mandy Keifetz on BENEFICIAL MICROBES | Annie Nocenti on MARKS ON WALLS | Molly Sauter on THE GREAT BRITISH BAKE OFF | William Nericcio on LAND OF THE LOST | Dan Fox on “VOICE OF GOD” RADIO DJS | Brandi Brown on WIKIPEDIA TALK | Claire Lehmann on THE APPARATUS REVEAL | Alice Boone on COSTUME JEWELRY | Colin Dickey on WIDESPREAD PANIC | Anshuman Iddamsetty on THE FULL BODY PROJECT | John Hilgart on MAKING GRATEFUL DEAD ALBUMS | Rob Wringham on STEVEN UNIVERSE | John Overholt on DECKLE EDGES | James Hannaham on HABIT PATTERNS | Jessamyn West on THE PUBLIC LIBRARY SYSTEM | Adam McGovern on THE SPACE GIANTS | Brian Berger on MEDIUM COOL | Chris Spurgeon on THE DUNNING-KRUGER EFFECT | Joe Alterio on TABLETOP WARGAMING | Mimi Lipson on TRASH PICKING | Jason Grote on CZECH CINEMA | Roxane Gay on AUTOMATED CAR WASH | Dan Fox on JULIA DAVIS | Amy Thielen on BINGO | Steph Burt on FEIJOA.
#SQUADGOALS (2017 weekly): THE WILD BUNCH | BOWIE’S BAND | THE BLOOMSBURY GROUP | THE HONG KONG CAVALIERS | VI ÄR BÄST & dozens of other squads | GROK MY ENTHUSIASM (2016 weekly): THE THEORY AND PRACTICE OF LUNCH | WEEKEND | MILLION YEAR PICNIC | LA BARONNE EMILE D’ERLANGER | THE SURVIVAL SAMPLER | & dozens more one-off enthusiasms. QUIRK YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2016): “Tainted Love” | “Metal” | “Frankie Teardrop” | “Savoir Faire” | “Broken English” | & 20 other new wave songs. CROM YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2015): DARKER THAN YOU THINK | THE SWORD IN THE STONE | OUT OF THE SILENT PLANET | THIEVES’ HOUSE | QUEEN OF THE BLACK COAST | & 20 other fantasy novels from 1934–43. KERN YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2014): ALDINE ITALIC | DATA 70 | TORONTO SUBWAY | JOHNSTON’S “HAMLET” | TODD KLONE | & 20 other typefaces. HERC YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2013): “Spoonin’ Rap” | “Rapper’s Delight” | “Rappin’ Blow” | “The Incredible Fulk” | “The Adventures of Super Rhyme” | & 20 other old-school hip-hop songs. KIRK YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2012): Justice or vengeance? | Kirk teaches his drill thrall to kiss | “KHAAAAAN!” | “No kill I” | Kirk browbeats NOMAD | & 20 other Captain Kirk scenes. KIRB YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2011): THE ETERNALS | BLACK MAGIC | DEMON | OMAC | CAPTAIN AMERICA | & 20 other Jack Kirby panels.