This scathing late-sixties satire from Jean-Luc Godard is one of cinema’s great anarchic works. Determined to collect an inheritance from a dying relative, a bourgeois couple travel across the French countryside while civilization crashes and burns around them. Featuring a justly famous sequence in which the camera tracks along a seemingly endless traffic jam, and rich with historical and literary references, Weekend is a surreally funny and disturbing call for revolution, a depiction of society reverting to savagery, and— according to the credits—the end of cinema itself.
Jean-Luc Godard’s Weekend finally gets a strong home video presentation in North America with a new Blu-ray edition from Criterion. The film is presented with a new 1080p/24hz high-definition transfer in its original aspect ratio of about 1.66:1 on a dual-layer disc.
After Criterion’s DVD presentations for 2 or 3 Things I Know About Her and Made in U.S.A., two other films by Godard around the same period, and then their Blu-ray of Pierrot le fou, I was a little surprised by how dreary and dull Weekend looks here in comparison to the look those other films, which had bright, vivid colours. New Yorker’s DVD was a little more washed out, but the general look was the same so this could be how it is intended to look. Further suggesting the colours are supposed to also look this is way is how director of photography Raoul Coutard mentions in the included interview that Godard wanted to use high-speed film and that he had to incorporate filters while filming.
Getting past the initial shock of the colours there was certainly nothing to question about the rest of the Blu-ray’s delivery. It’s far sharper with a higher level of detail in comparison to the New Yorker DVD, and film grain remains intact, looking clean and natural, if a little heavy. The transfer is clean with no sign of any digital artifacts, and the print is in near-perfect condition with only a few minor blemishes I recall seeing.
More filmic in its presentation and a huge leap over the previous New Yorker DVD, this release wins out on transfer alone.
The linear PCM 1.0 mono track is fine for what it is. Dialogue sounds clear, and the B-movie music that comes in and out throughout doesn’t present any noticeable distortion or damage. But the track is a bit flat and one-note overall, so it’s never particularly striking or above average.
Under “Supplements” Criterion first includes a 25-minute visual essay by Kent Jones entitled Revolutions Per Second, created exclusively for this edition. Jones briefly begins first with Godard’s politics and how they began to show more and more through more through his work, specifically concentrating on La chinoise and then Weekend. Jones then talks about the film’s presentation of French society of the time, and how the characters throughout represent the various classes. He also points out the various references from literature and history. He does go over the production a little, touching on some of the issues Godard had with co-star Mireille Darc, and the political climate of the time, specifically the French protests of 1968. I was a little letdown by the lack of a commentary on this release but Jones’ essay does provide a suitable replacement, helping put the film into a better context.
Criterion then provides a series of archival interviews, starting with a 19-minute one with director of photography Raoul Coutard. This piece, which I understand is the same one that appears on the New Yorker DVD, features the director of photography recalling his work with Godard, with Weekend the primary focus. He talks about the look of the film, recalls building the dolly track for the traffic jam scene, and Godard’s mood on set. He also expresses his thoughts about Godard’s work, and he amusingly admits that he finds some of his films boring, but no matter what at least a third of the film in question has something great in it.
Criterion then digs up 3-minutes’ worth of excerpts from a French television broadcast from January of 1968 that presented interviews with actors Mireille Darc and Jean Yanne. The two state what is was like working with Godard and, despite the fact other features on this release mention Godard couldn’t stand working with Darc and put her through hell on set, she says here that she would definitely work with the director again.
The interviews then conclude with one from assistant director Claude Miller. Miller talks about discovering film and his early career, and the path that lead him to become assistant director for Godard. He talks about his various jobs, which included keeping the producer off set, and also what Godard was like on set. He recalls the prep work done for Weekend, despite the lack of a real script when production began. Of the three this interview offers the more insightful look at the chaotic production. It runs 24-minutes.
Criterion then digs up excerpts from a documentary made out of footage taken on the set of Weekend. These excerpts show Godard working with his actors, and show some of the preparation work that went into the traffic jam sequence and others. It also features director Jean-Michel Barjol offering his opinions of Godard, with a clear frustration for how the director allows people to have misunderstandings about him and his work.
The disc then closes with two theatrical trailers: the French one and the American one. The booklet includes an essay by Gary Indiana, excerpts about Weekend from Alain Bergala’s book Godard au travail: Les années 60, and then a reprint of an interview with Godard conducted by Jonathan Cott.
Not loaded but the supplements do offer a decent look into the making of Weekend while Jones’ contribution delivers a strong analysis of the film and its themes. Everything on here is worth going through.
The supplements are good but the transfer is easily the strongest aspect of this edition, delivering a far sharper and more film-like look in comparison to New Yorker’s previous DVD. The Blu-ray comes with a strong recommendation.