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tidewaterreview.com

Timeless portrait of '60s chaos

Michael Phillips

November 19, 2011

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Now back in a fresh 35 mm print at the Siskel Film Center, just in time for a little Thanksgiving week provocation, Jean-Luc Godard's 1967 cine-essay was "found on a dump" (as Godard puts it up front, on screen) and remains "adrift in the cosmos" (his again), while embodying "the beginning of Flamboyance, especially in cinema" (as one character says in the film itself). It is impudence incarnate. And it will never date.

On the other hand: Straight or crooked, Godard or otherwise, no film captures a purer sense of 1960s revolutionary ferment, while death-cackling all the way to total societal chaos. The centerpiece of "Weekend" is a three-take, nine-minute traffic jam, in which the shallow, materialistic couple nominally at the scenario's center shares a rural thoroughfare with picnickers, lovers and, as we eventually learn, victims of car accidents. Where are these people going?

By the time Godard has actress Mireille Darc and actor Jean Yanne kidnapped by cannibalistic revolutionaries, "Weekend" has begun to implode, elegantly, on the subjects of betrayal and bourgeois hypocrisy at its "most bitter and evil," in the words of Godard biographer Richard Brody. The genius of it, casual yet intuitive, is in the way Godard lets the editing, sound and music play with our levels of engagement and detachment. Not to mention the llama surveying the traffic jam. This may not be Godard's most lasting film. It is, however, the one that sneers most audibly, and indelibly, at a world coming apart at the seams, as seen by a filmmaker forever ready to grope his way toward meaning through form and experimentation.

Plays through Wednesday at the Siskel Film Center. In French with English subtitles. Running time: 1:45