Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Re-riding the nouvelle vague

Contrary to the belief of my landlady (who thinks the idealism of the 60s is dead in this generation), it is perfectly normal for me to go to the local Blockbusters and hire Jean-Luc Godard's 1967 film, Weekend. I'm not being pretentious; I just want to know what else I'm supposed to reasonably watch at le weekend?

It also seems to me quite rational that Godard intersperse his scenes with huge pink and red flashing text against a black background.

And it hardly seems extraordinary that the anti-hero protagonists of his film - a scheming bourgeois couple Sunday driving (Godard hated nothing more than Sunday drivers) pass through a landscape of upturned burning cars, with the bloodied bodies of the car's erstwhile passengers scattered liberally across the road. That the scowling fake blonde soon-to-be heiress and her dour scoundrel of a husband-fag stuck to his lip, should manoeuvre their convertible sports car through this Sunday afternoon carnage without scarcely raising an eyebrow, is to be expected. They are bourgeois and they are in a hurry, after all.

I'm totally prepared to go along with the premise that the most cinematographically effective way of treating the class struggle is to shoot a comically absurd scene in a provincial town in which a neatly dressed, bloodied and hysterical girl screams at the yokel who has crashed his tractor into her sports car, killing her Armani-clad boyfriend; she shouts at him threateningly demanding to know how he - an unsightly and insignificant anonymous member of the masses could dare to take the life of one of the St Tropez elite - her beautiful rich boyfriend, whose artfully arranged and sculpted bloodied body still manages a superior sneer from the other side of life.

What, other than good common sense, could have motivated Godard to have Algerian and Congolese rubbish collectors refuse the now car-less and starving bourgeois refugees-in-their-own country, a morsel of baguette with the retort that this is how France has dealt with its former colonies - offering them bread and snatching it away with a kick up the arse. What donkeys we are. The two men, their eyes full of hatred for their colonisers, go on to recite - each on behalf of the brooding other - long passages of revolutionary text.

Godard insists that one can only smash the complacency of the middle classes by exposing them to the brutality that underlies their precious civilisation, so the disembowelment of the ruthless bourgeois husband by a band of bandanna-wearing hippy anarchist cannibals living wild in the woods, is the only logical conclusion for the film.

Whatever happened to such sensible filmmaking?

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