Weekend with Piers Handling
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Weekend with Piers Handling

Godard’s cannibal road trip.


“I’ve had enough!” bourgeois drifter Corinne protests about an hour into Weekend, Jean-Luc Godard’s third film in 1967 alone, and arguably the most complete realization of the essayistic style and Marxist politics with which his work had become preoccupied around that point. Corinne is en route to Oinville (a real place whose name happily calls to mind both “oil” and “oink”), with none-too-bright husband Roland in tow. Their aim is to secure her inheritance from her ailing father before she gets muscled out of the will, provided they can make it safely across the countryside despite an attempted kidnapping, a bout with cannibals, and some serious car trouble.

Corinne’s complaint is the whine of the serial consumer, but it’s also a dare to the spectator—a snarky exhortation to either keep up or get off the road amidst Godard’s dense politics and formal play. As an ideological statement, the film has the air of an anti-Vietnam position paper, though Godard’s caustic wit has quite a bit of sting. It’s undoubtedly a document of its time in the way it empties out its nominally central characters, standing them up against a host of flashy cars and corporate symbols—Esso! Shell!—so that they come across as the ultimate ugly Americans, notwithstanding their French citizenship by accident of geography. Corinne and Roland’s misadventures play like an intellectual version of Dumb & Dumber, with little of the warmth the Farrelly brothers reserve for their dolts.

It might not sound like it from that description, but Weekend is a funny movie, playful in the way its comically intrusive, pop art–inspired intertitles modify the onscreen mayhem. (The best of these is surely “A Scene of a Parisian Life,” which sets up a screwball farce involving a tennis racket and a rifle.) With a stunning eight-minute tracking shot that roams over an apocalyptic traffic jam, it’s also a stylistic heavyweight—not as fun as more colourful romps like Pierrot le Fou, but probably more important.

TIFF Director Piers Handling will introduce Thursday’s screening.