This weekend, Godard’s Pierrot Le Fou in Bengaluru

Jean-Luc Godard’s 1967 movie, Weekend, was screened by LACEfilms on 26th October at Suchitra Film Society. On a nice Sunday morning which usually is reserved for films by great auteurs, a bunch of 30 or so gathered to watch this French film. What I expected to see in the film was general drama on how the bourgeois or the privileged class is enjoying his weekend – but I then immediately realigned my cognisance about Godard and what he stands for.

To be able to comment on Godard or his films requires serious credentials than being a mere journalist who has only seen a fair amount of foreign cinema. To stick to basic introduction, Jean-Luc Godard is one of the most influential filmmakers and a leading figure of the French new wave cinema movement in the 1960s. The cinema that falls in this genre is defined to be subjective, abstract, intangible, and largely characterised by experimental and innovative photo techniques.

Catering to this genre – the film shows interruptions in the main story with inconsequential events so as to distance the audience from the story, abrupt flash forwards, making the presence of the camera obvious by making the characters talk into it, long shots and distancing the camera from the characters and important events. The other directors that fall into this genre are Alain Resnais, Louis Malle, Claude Chabrol, Francois Truffaut, Agnes Varda, Jacques Becker, Jean-Pierre Melville, Andre Techine,et cetra.

The story

The story is about Roland and Corinne – a scheming bourgeois couple who leave Paris for the French countryside to claim an inheritance. The bequest belongs to the girl’s father. The couple and the movie at large is a great symbol of consumerism. The idea is to go sooner and kill the father. The forever bickering couple is however plotting to kill each other after that – to usurp the loot individually.

Scene from the film

Still from the film. Source: Poonam J.

As the couple head out towards their destination and doom, the movie moves to the much talked about traffic jam scene. On the way to the countryside the couple is entangled in a disastrous traffic jam – lasting a stunning ten minutes. At this point it wouldn’t be surprising if anyone switched to another film. But in this scene lays the essence of the movie – a breakdown in the civilised folk ways. The movie henceforth moves into only more dangerous encounters: murder, rape, embezzlement and cannibalism. The movie is influenced by pop art movement which satirises consumerism and manufactured product by turning it on its head.

This movie is recommended only for those who take their cinema seriously. The fender-bender violence in the movie is wrought with profound imagery, political statements on corporation, commodification and materialism. The movie is an allegory on the automobile culture, on war of the classes, patriarchy (Godard saw patriarchy as one of the horrors of the modern world), communism & capitalism On the Hollywood movie conventions on churning mass trash – the reading into the movie is endless.

The movie is grimly comic and even didactic – showing us the life we have created and to think of possible alternatives. The movie even has explicit references to the Surrealist filmmaker Luis Buñuel’s Exterminating Angels– which just goes on to say that to criticise Godard requires a rich repertoire of film knowledge.

DVD cover

DVD cover of the film.

At the outset, the movie provides no conventional visual pleasures. As the movie progresses, the characters in it only become more animal like. Godard is one of the greatest post-modernist filmmakers. He copiously uses quotations in his movies. And quotations are rarely attributed – as if he can take from the pre-existing culture and use them in new ways. To understand his movies, a greater understanding of the man himself will do justice. And to state the obvious, Godard’s works have transformed the face of cinema.

Coming weekend

For those who would like to taste the cinema of Jean-Luc Godard, LACEfilms in collaboration with Suchitra Film Society, will be screening his 1965 film, Pierrot Le Fou on 23rd November. In the film, Pierro escapes his boring society and travels from Paris to the Mediterranean Sea with Marianne – a girl who is chased by hit-men from Algeria. They lead an unorthodox life, always on the run. The top French cast Jean-Paul Belmondo, Anna Karina, Graziella Galvani star in the film. The movie is in French with English subtitles.

Manu Chakravarthy, Professor of English at NMKRV College, will be moderating the session after the film. For further details, contact Prashant Pandit on 9900146487or email at lacefilms@gmail.com. To subscribe to this group, send email to lacefilms-subscribe@googlegroups.com. To read more about LACEfilms visit their website on http://lacefilms.googlepages.com.

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