Waiting for Godard

“Given the existence as uttered forth in the works of [Godard] of a personal God quaquaquaqua with white beard quaquaquaqua outside time without extension who from the heights of divine…”

This – save ‘Godard’ – is the beginning of three pages of thoughts spewed from Lucky in Samuel Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot,” perhaps the most well-known play in the school of the Theater of the Absurd. The story may have influenced Jean-Luc Godard’s absurdist New Wave film “Le Week End.” Allow me to help mentally prepare you for what, to some, can be an excruciatingly mind-numbing film, but whose peculiarity piques your curiosity and overloads the senses.

Much like the two main characters in Beckett’s play, the protagonists in Godard’s Le Week End, Corrine and Roland, need each other to exist, their relationship is a perverse codependency. They are are an inherently malicious couple who secretly want to kill each other.

The tragicomedy that is “Waiting for Godot” describes the two heroes, Vladimir and Estragon, as passively waiting for somebody who will clearly never show up. In fact, it would seem that they are destined to wait in their sort of hell with nothing of great importance to talk about, implying that there is meaninglessness in life. Godard’s characters actively pursue their goal, selfish as it is – but are so self-centered that they are oblivious to all the events that surround them unless they directly affect or assault them. While it seems that the two will never reach their end goal, they do in fact achieve securing an inheritance that they were dead set on procuring, but are destined to live out their pointless existence soon afterward.

Corrine and Roland are driving to Corrine’s parents’ house in order to claim an inheritance from her dying father, even if it takes a murder or two along the way. On their trip there, however, they are confronted by a myriad of whimsical figures: philosophers who speak like Lewis Caroll characters; drivers-by who make the two question if they are in a film; two working-class individuals who speak of their concerns about empirical colonialism in Africa and social class issues; and a commune of Marxist, cannibalistic hippies, among others.

Much like Vladimir and Estragon encounter Pozzo and Lucky, a master and servant, respectively, another codependent couple, Godard’s characters usually meet paired counterparts. Comparatively, each couple embodies characteristics of the human element that help the audience determine what is truly real and worthwhile.  You should, for example, keep your eyes and ears open for the appearances of the zany, anarchist-god Joseph Balsalmo and the rest of the odd cast, most of whom address the audience directly to state their points of view of the modern world (read: to describe Godard’s socio-political commentary of the late 1960s). One of those Caroll-like characters, Emily, ponders:

“Poor pebble. Ignored by architecture, sculpture, mosaic and jewelery, it dates from the beginning of the planet…It predates man, and man has not embodied it in his art or industry. He did not manufacture it and thus decide its place. The pebble perpetuates nothing more than its own memory.”

Why talk of the pebble? To show the utter insignificance of the pebble? To give the pebble a new-found sense of importance in its otherwise useless existence? I don’t know, but what that character is doing is thinking (out loud), not necessarily speaking, arbitrarily in the manner as Beckett’s Lucky, and each character brings more profoundly pointless prose. Truly, it can be said that Godard’s Le Week End as a whole is something similar; (from the perspective of the greed-driven main characters) it’s a lot of nonsensical events and dialogue thrown together, tied with a loose narrative, and topped with a few gems of enlightenment strewn about subtly or apparently.

Finally, the reason why I call this film excruciatingly mind-numbing, but still involving, is because once you reach your threshold — and you will reach it — your eyes will cry to be peeled from the screen, but, still, you will continue to find yourself watching the horrific journey of this heartless, bourgeois couple. It’s as if Corrine and Roland are going through their own absurd hell with events unfolding randomly, and you’re “rubber-necking” their horrible,  car-accident-like existence. Godard does not want you to care about them (as it’s difficult to have sympathy for murderers), but, much like Beckett, he will throw conventions out of the window. Thus your eyes are glued to the newly defined conventions as the old ways crash and burn. When will Godard reveal the “FIN” and spare you? The end only comes when you’re prepared to openly hate but secretly obsess over his film.

By Luis Limon

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