I don’t like the French New Wave.
There, I’ve said it.
When I first started to watch films in a foreign language there was a season of French films on BBC2 an I watched Godard’s BREATHLESS and yes, it was OK, but to be honest, I found it a bit boring.
I tried again with a season of New Wave on Channel Four with Truffaut’s JULES ET JIM and LAST YEAR AT MARIENBAD. X may have met Y or Z last year, but then again, they might not have, and by the end you are preying that Bobby will walk out of the shower and the film that you have just seen has not really happened. I sat through LE MEPRIS with Bardot, waiting for something to happen (I’m still waiting), ALPHAVILLE, a classic French sci-fi, or so I’m told. French sic-fi it may be, but classic?
I realise that much of the New Wave has dated quite badly and people are scared to admit it isn’t very good any more, it may have been a breath of fresh air in the late 50s, but now, it seems jaded. However, when it comes to WEEKEND, it is something different.
I first caught up with it on BBC2 when Alex Cox introduced his wonderful (and sometimes weird) seasons of MOVIEDROME and remember thinking that this does look fresh and colourful. A lot of French cinema of this era looked drab and even the black and white films appeared drained out. THE RED BALLOON, ZAZIE DANS LE METRO and this all still feel wonderful to me and its the use of colour that adds something.
A couple try to get away for the weekend and are caught up in a massive traffic jam. A brilliant ten minute, one take, tracking shot with corpses strewn everywhere. They try to get to the countryside but eventually get caught up in cannibalism.
It is very much ‘of its time’ and is also very political, reflecting what was happening in Algeria and France at the time, but when I am out for the day, on a country road, I am always reminded of this film and the equally wonderful TWO FOR THE ROAD by Stanley Donen with Audrey Hepburn and Albert Finney as a married couple whose relationship is falling apart while driving through France, filmed at the same time as WEEKEND, but very different.
It has an almost dream-like quality that sets it apart from New Wave and places it with Brunel.
At the box-office the film died and after this, Godard stopped making proper films and made documentary for many years, such as SYMPATHY FOR THE DEVIL, about The Rolling Stones.
This is his peak. A pity that it is currently out of print on DVD.
Dom F’s first viewing: 10/6/95