Those who were unfortunate enough to watch Jean-Luc Godard's last film, Film Socialisme, which screened at Northwest Film Forum last summer, should now be required to watch Weekend. Released in 1967, Weekend marks the end of a productive period that began with 1960's Breathless, and what Weekend makes clear is what Film Socialisme makes unclear: the greatness of Godard's cinematic imagination. True, the father of the French New Wave is now an old man (he turned 81 in December), but he is not getting nuttier. His films have always been nuts. To say such-and-such movie by Godard is nuts is to say not much at all—a second adjective is required. For example, Film Socialisme is nuts and long. Weekend, on the other hand, is nuts and brilliant.
Opening with the announcement that this is a film "adrift in the cosmos," Weekend tracks a road trip that begins in Paris and ends nowhere. The driver is Roland (Jean Yanne); the passenger is Corinne (Mireille Darc). The two are upper class and married. The point of their road trip is to extract money from a dying man. The dying man is the father of Corinne. During the trip, the couple meets lots of crazy people. They also drive past cars that have crashed into trees or crashed into tractors or crashed into other cars. Early in the trip, they hit a traffic jam. The tracking shot for this traffic jam is incredible. It runs for eight minutes and has a grim ending. I'm almost certain that this is the greatest traffic jam in all of cinema. It's nutty and brilliant. SIFF Cinema at the Film Center, Feb 3–9.