DIRECTOR: Jean-Luc Godard | WRITER: Jean-Luc Godard | CAST: Mireille Darc, Jean Yanne, Paul Gégauff, Jean-Pierre Léaud, Blandine Jeanson, Yves Afonso, Juliet Berto | France
I’ve put off seeing EEK END WEEK because I just knew I was going to hate it since I just knew I hated Jean-Luc Godard’s movies. I’d see it described as a savage black comedy about the downfall of the bourgeoisie and groan. I’d remember that a junior high school classmate described it at the time (probably 1969) as being about a gigantic traffic jam and that it was the funniest thing he’d ever seen and I envisioned crudely done slapstick with winks at the audience. But now that I’ve seen some Godard films that I like, even love (Vivre sa vie), I finally watched it. It’s the funniest laugh-out-loud movie I’ve seen in a long, long, long time. Not that it doesn’t have serious points to make, because it does, but those points are made in the most hilariously over-the-top, exaggeratedly explicit way possible. What’s it about? An upper middle class couple get stuck in a traffic jam as they’re driving to pick up her ailing father from the clinic in order to murder him for the inheritance; they wind up being sucked into the middle of the apocalyptic end of end-stage Capitalism. Sort of.
Two bravura pieces of filmmaking make EK END WEEK E an absolute drop everything and see it flick. First, the traffic jam itself is shown in a continuous and slow travelling shot alongside a miles-long line of cars that lasts for what seems like half an hour; you’re never sure what’s going to appear from the right as the camera keeps moving down the line. The second is a section called ACTION MUSICALE that starts at around the 52 minute mark and continues in essentially one take for the next 8 or 9 minutes during which the camera slowly moves sideways as it makes a complete counterclockwise 360 degree turn, comes to a rest for 20 seconds or so, then starts moving sideways back as it rotates clockwise 360 degrees, then stops for a few seconds and then continues moving. All this while characters are talking and doing things. It took me a couple of minutes to notice and say, “Hey, wait! what are you doing?!” I’m knocking off a point for the annoying movie geek insiderisms (“Johnny Guitar is on the line”) and because Jean Yanne wore clothes that fit (in my review of Le boucher, a movie I hated, I wrote: “Oh, I did often wonder if pudgy Jean Yanne could possibly wear tighter pants and still breathe.”), and also because I need to see it again. For now: 9/10.