Perşembe, Aralık 21, 2006


Wonderwall (U.K., 1968) * *
D: Joe Massot

I had wanted to see Wonderwall pretty much since becoming a Beatles fan (in high school), since the soundtrack counts as one of the very first George Harrison solo albums, only preceded by an Apple release of experimental mellotron noodlings. Since those days of fandom, my obsession with the shortly-lived psychedelic heydey of 1966-1968 had placed the film even higher on my must-see list, but a certain wary reservation let me turn down the offer, from Rhino's exclusive Handmade line of limited-edition releases, to purchase the film on DVD with assorted collectibles. After all, this had every likelihood to be a head film of the pretentious variety (is there any other kind?).

There are unintentional head films (i.e. 2001: A Space Odyssey), and then films in which the filmmakers actually desired the audience to drop acid to enhance the viewing experience (i.e. El Topo). The best head film, aside from Kubrick's, is George Dunning's Yellow Submarine. The Beatles distanced themselves from the animated film, not even supplying their own voices, because they assumed it would be on par with the Beatles cartoon show--aimed squarely at children--and only agreed to the project because it would help complete their contract to make a certain number of films. But the finished result is at least on par with A Hard Day's Night, and far more artistically successful than the film directed by the Beatles (or at least Paul McCartney), Magical Mystery Tour, and Let it Be, which completed their film contract with a depressing fizzle. Yellow Submarine was a kaleidoscopic fantasy inspired by Beatles lyrics but calling to mind Alice in Wonderland and The Phantom Tollbooth, and perfectly in tune with the childlike surrealism of John Lennon. Plus, since the filmmakers were able to hand-pick Beatles tunes (apart from the handful of "new" throwaways handed them by the band), the soundtrack, finally released in its entirety in the late 90's, is stunning, highlighted by a rendering of "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" that represents the height of artfully used rotoscoped animation--after the sequence there was applause in the theater, at a revival showing in Seattle. I would imagine that if you were going to drop acid while watching a film, Yellow Submarine would provide a very pleasant trip.

McCartney and Lennon both had interests in avant-garde film. McCartney, while a Beatle, also provided a score for a now-obscure British film; but it must have been unexpected when Harrison put a film score under his belt. In retrospect, for a Beatle who would later score eclectic projects such as the Madonna/Sean Penn vehicle Shanghai Surprise and the IMAX film Everest, and co-found Handmade Films for the benefit of Monty Python’s Life of Brian, his first choice doesn’t seem so unusual after all.

Wonderwall is of the “head film” genre, but at the same time it’s very, very British in its sensibility; it’s one of the strangest head films you’ll see. It stars not a hippie hero but the aged Jack MacGowran, hired because of his role as Professor Abronsius in Roman Polanski’s Dance of the Vampires (so IMDB tells me now, but while I was watching Wonderwall I was constantly reminded of the doddering vampire-hunting professor). Playing Professor Collins, he spends his day peering through a microscope, and by night peering through the hole in the wall of his apartment, spying upon the neighbor girl, a hippie model. The discovery of the hole is given great import. The professor, living amidst piles of papers and shelves of books, tosses something angrily at the wall because of the racket—Harrison’s sitar music—playing loudly next door. His butterfly collection drops to the floor, shattering glass, and in the dark he can see a cross of light beaming from the tiny hole (a lovely use of lens filter). Through it, he sees the beautiful young woman reclining in red light while listening to the sitar play. As he looks back at his butterfly collection, the butterflies, now animated (in every sense of the term), flutter before his eyes and fly into the ether. The next time he spies through the hole, the girl and her friends are presumably in a fashion shoot; she’s skiing in falling snow, bizarre poses are struck, all to Harrison’s mixture of traditional Indian music and rock ‘n’ roll. And they are in a fashion shoot. After the animated-butterflies sequence, all scenes in the film have a rational explanation. No surprise a scientist is the main character—this is scientific, mathematic surrealism, which only lets the butterfly scene slip by because someone forgot to carry the one. Nevertheless, there is a long, somewhat irritating dream sequence midway through the film, which features backwards-playing notes as the professor envisions himself battling the girl’s rakish boyfriend, who’s wearing a superhero suit with “LSD” on the chest. One of the film’s most striking images, and its best stab at surrealism tempered by reality, depicts the professor madly digging peepholes between the bricks of the wall, so the multicolored lights of the psychedelic room on the other side shine through like a Christmas tree. Less satisfyingly, the following scene has our voyeur using every one of the holes to spy on his neighbor making love, the camera undercranked.

That scene, like the rest of the film, has a thin line to walk. It has to be charming, funny, and fascinating and not, well, creepy and disturbing. It almost works—but, unsurprisingly, does not. This is a film about a sheltered, lonely elderly man who becomes aroused—I’m sorry, “turned on”—to the carefree world of the younger generation, primarily through the act of obsessively spying. How could that work? And could this film have been made in any other year than 1968? I Love You, Alice B. Toklas, the Peter Sellers comedy, attempted something similar, and the results were either more or less successful, depending on whether you’d rather be watching this story unfold as a broad comedy (as Toklas did) or as a semi-serious fable (as Wonderwall is). Either way, it’s hard to take it too seriously in the twenty-first century. Sure, there’s some ostensible human interest when the girl’s boyfriend occasionally visits the professor (they almost become friends), or when the professor rescues the girl from a suicide attempt. These moments seem out of place in a “head film.” In fact, the film seems to be well on its way to a quaint, minor-key ending with the professor returning to his lab and his microscope, but as he looks through his favorite peephole, he sees a fantastic vision of his neighbor drifting away from him and becoming one with the cosmos. Frankly, the film could have used more of that sort of naïveté, but as it stands, Wonderwall tries to please both the trippers and the middle-brows.

The film would have fallen completely into irrelevance if not for the producers’ smart decision to hire George Harrison for the score, and his soundtrack album, which stayed in print when the film did not, is a feast of mind-expanding explorations anchored by the dreamy sitar. So much of what should be intolerable in this film is elevated by his accompaniment. The opening title sequence is a particularly remarkable blend of Harrison music with otherworldly visuals (the professor’s microscope slides). If any of this film sounds interesting to you, I’d recommend seeking it out, despite its flaws. But this is for psychedelic historians only.

Perşembe, Aralık 14, 2006

Saturday Night Live: The First 3 Episodes

Thoughts on watching the first 3 episodes of Saturday Night Live (1975)...

Episode 1

I tell my wife that this is when (host) George Carlin was edgy, meaning "coked up." You can't really tell, except his delivery is a little too rehearsed and "energetic." And I regret saying he's edgy, because most of his jokes are really mundane. For example, my favorite joke is: "I wonder what dogs do on their day off? They can't lay around, because they do that all the time." Edgy. Later on he redeems himself (sort of) with an oddly hostile rant about the stupidity of religion. Maybe NBC forced him to use that material later in the evening, but not as an opener.

Billy Preston, singing that "Nothing From Nothing" song...the first ever SNL musical performance, and a good song. I always associate Billy Preston with the Beatles, because he played on Let it Be. In fact, that was the first time someone other than a Beatle was credited on a recording: The Beatles with Billy Preston. He cheered the Beatles up, and he cheers you up, watching him here. Although it's easy to laugh at his outfit: purple silk scarf, weird giant blossoms arranged level with each other on his lapels. I like his gap-toothed grin. His other keyboardist looks like an audio-animatronic mannequin from Disneyland, rocking back and forth mechanically.

The sketches seem to start and end with no rhyme or reason. Very Monty Python-influenced, much more so than later years. Sometimes there isn't even really a joke, such as in the notorious "bees" sketch, which somehow I find hysterical anyway, because the actors commit to it so much. "Congratulations, it's a worker." "Oh...a worker." I never thought I'd say this, but Larraine Newman is hot (she was so young then).

George Carlin isn't appearing in any of the sketches. Instead, to remind you of his presence they cut back to him onstage doing more stand-up.

Andy Kaufman does the Mighty Mouse routine, recreated in the "Man on the Moon" biopic (where Carlin played himself). The real deal is so much more funny than Jim Carrey's impersonation. Something to do with the ambiguity of Kaufman's performance. Is the Kaufman character waiting awkwardly for his next line, or is he confident in his performance? It's like the Mona Lisa's smile! You're nervous, you're uncertain, and you laugh--that razor-thin line for which he always aimed.

Weekend Update: jokes about Gerald Ford being clumsy. Chevy Chase doesn't know which camera to look at (either that, or the camera-queuing is mistimed), and at one point it seems like he's going to make a joke about it (a little physical comedy as he looks from one camera to the other quickly, blinking), but then he withdraws nervously. Great live TV awkwardness.

Janis Ian sings. I have never heard of her before, although I recognize the song ("At Seventeen"). A beautiful woman and a beautiful voice. I'm in love. I'm going to buy some old Janis Ian albums now. She sings about being ugly and not getting picked for a team during gym class. Yes! Very 70's singer-songwriter, right down to the way they film: I love when she goes out of focus so the camera can focus in on the candles in the foreground...which aren't even fancy enough to look at. I love her. She only reluctantly smiles after the audience has been clapping for a few seconds.

Jim Henson's muppets--not recognizable ones, but SNL ones, acting out a kind of Honeymooners concept but in a fantasy world of smoking craters and ancient ruins. A critic, reviewing this DVD, compared these scenes to Fraggle Rock, but they remind me of a Ralph Bakshi cartoon, a little Wizards, a little Heavy Traffic.

A really wretched stand-up, Valri Bromfield, is one of the names that draws a blank here. You want to give her credit for being a female stand-up in a time when it was very male-dominated, but her bit is more like an actor's overcalculated, overwritten audition.

Lots doesn't work, but it's so much better than modern SNL. Because the series doesn't have a structured format yet, you never know what you're going to get next. The Albert Brooks film is unfunny - just a collection of jokes that don't work, disappointingly - but at least it's something different. On the whole, it's much more interesting than the formula settled upon in later years. I like the messiness. Paul Simon comes on at the very end and says he'll be reuniting with Art Garfunkel on next week's episode, and you remember Lorne Michaels wanted the Beatles to reunite on his show too.

Episode 2

Paul Simon is hosting. This episode is almost entirely devoid of the Not Ready for Primetime Players. They cameo in a very funny gag, hoping to reprise last week's failed bee skit, but Simon refuses. I appreciate self-depracating humor.

A quick summary of this episode: Paul Simon sings...Paul Simon sings....Paul Simon does a filmed skit...Simon and Garfunkel reunite and sing...and do another, and another...Art Garfunkel sings solo...Paul Simon sings...Randy Newman sings...Phoebe Snow sings...Paul Simon sings with Phoebe Snow...etc, etc. They should just sell this episode separately to Paul Simon fans. At least he's at the height of his solo career, and the songs are all outstanding. Oddly, Simon seems excited to reunite with Garfunkel, but the feelings don't seem mutual. Simon says something like "Done acting yet?" and gets no laughter in response. Garfunkel is still five years from Nicholas Roeg's Bad Timing.

Another great 70's TV technique: Paul Simon singing in long-shot, while a second camera, zooming in for a close-up, blows up the image and places it right next to his head. So it looks like he's singing to a deity, and the deity is Paul Simon.

The filmed sketch with Paul Simon taking Connie Hawkins one-on-one (set to "Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard") is really charming, although Simon's comic timing with Marv Albert is awkward (long pauses while he seems to think of what to say). Enjoy it, you're not getting much more in the way of comedy in this one.

The Albert Brooks film is a winner this time. Brooks introduces himself (after asking an armed security guard to forcibly remove his young, whining daughter from the room), then shows some home movies shot by his father, and some outtakes from Brooks' failed attempt to make a Candid Camera-style film for SNL. It's all Brooks' typical meta-comedy: high-concept jokes attempting to pass themselves off as documentary.

The Muppets sketch contains a valuable lesson for political leaders: if you sacrifice your people by dumping them down a pit, you will have less mouths to feed, and your economy will improve.

Episode 3

Rob Reiner hosting, he begins with a sort-of-funny bit where he impersonates a lounge singer. Maybe this felt more fresh in 1975. Later, he introduces his wife Penny Marshall, who looks astonishingly young.

The Not Ready for Primetime Players return with a vengeance, and they have some funny sketches here. The Bees invade a Reiner/Marshall sketch, and Reiner refuses to perform with them: Belushi, in bee regalia, makes an impassioned speech. Later Belushi becomes an instant star with his impression of Joe Cocker singing "With a Little Help from My Friends" (pouring beer over himself and staggering around the stage). This is the first episode where you really become conscious of Belushi. Strange that Chevy Chase was the first breakout star of the show, as so far he seems awkward, sweaty, and nervous in all his appearances, although he probably is the most dashingly handsome. Chase, like Ackroyd and Belushi, looks like a college kid, and their humor is expectedly smirky and self-satisfied--still, the writing is good, the enthusiasm is big, and you laugh in spite of its shortcomings.

A group called the Lockers perform. This is black funk looking for some new form of expression--waiting anxiously for rap (or breakdancing, I guess). The performers flip around the stage like members of Cirque du Soleil, and they dress like early 20th century French clowns. The music is typical 70's funk. At one point one of them shouts, "Turn off the music! We don't need music!" In fact, they do. Of note: my wife thinks this is straight out of Spike Lee's Bamboozled. Also of note: when one of the Lockers emerges with lit light bulbs attached to his uniform, the audience goes, "Ooh!"

Andy Kaufman does another record routine, this to "Pop Goes the Weasel." Not as funny. Still somehow hysterical.

Comedy team "Dillon & Hampton" perform. That's Denny Dillon from HBO's "Dream On." She's funny here, but the material really isn't.

The Albert Brooks film is the best yet, paving the way for his first real films, in particular "Real Life." He announces that he's going to fulfill his lifelong dream of becoming a doctor, simply by putting out an ad requesting anyone who is willing to submit themselves to open-heart surgery; victim in tow, he hires an international crew of doctors to assist him (they're not legally allowed to operate in the United States). Some of the best Albert Brooks material I've ever seen, and a reminder that I should go back and watch "Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World" again, a very underrated comedy.

The Jim Henson sketch features a pot-smoking Muppet. Now we're deep into Ralph Bakshi territory. The message seems to be that smoking pot makes you stupid, but you should do it anyway because everybody else is.

In sum: glorious. If SNL were still like this, I would watch it religiously. I eagerly await the next disc from Netflix.

Cuma, Aralık 08, 2006

All You Need is a Girl and a Gun, Part 4

Masculin Feminin (France, 1966) * * * *
La Chinoise (France, 1967) * * 1/2
Two or Three Things I Know About Her (France, 1967) * * *
Week-End (France, 1967) * * *
D: Jean-Luc Godard

If the final stage of the Cinematheque's Godard retrospective represents a shift toward the political, it isn't yet a complete abandonment of narrative. (Although one film included here which is not part of the Cinematheque's retrospective, Two or Three Things I Know About Her, achieves just that.) I keep smacking at that point because I'm a big rah-rah fan of narrative and all its conventions. In these films, possibly excepting Two or Three Things, Godard is not yet forsaking cinema for essay or screed.

Though it's been described as a political film, Masculin Feminin struck me as apolitical. The politics are an ornament the central character wears; Paul (Jean-Pierre Leaud) seems less passionately involved in defining his politics (as his friend is) than pursuing a deeper meaning to the world around him. He looks for that deeper meaning in his tumultuous relationship with Madeleine (Chantal Goya). Their relationship is open to question throughout the film: he pursues her, she is indifferent; he wins her, she is indifferent. She holds him at bay for much of the film, and their tender scenes are limited to one, as they make spare physical contact under the sheets while a third member (ah, the 60's) tells them to shut up so she can get some sleep. Does she ever love him, and does she need him? The final shot, the last in a series of interrogations that form the central motif of the film, is as ambiguous as the Mona Lisa's smile.

Masculin Feminin continues Godard's interest in abstract surrealism (for lack of a better term), which came to the foreground in Pierrot le Fou. As with that film's early party scene and non sequitur musical numbers, moments of pure fantasy intrude upon the action as the film hints at other films, other stories that this one could have been. In one scene, a conversation between the two central characters is interrupted by the quarrel of two lovers sitting at another table, which takes a turn toward sudden violence. But it doesn't intrude upon our plot. Paul is, at one point, accosted by a man who turns a knife upon himself, and later sees (off-screen) a man setting himself on fire; these don't intrude upon our plot. These scenes are like watching random events from the television news in the late 60's (and anticipate 1968)--Vietnam, assassinations, riots--but Paul and his urban, privileged friends are allowed to carry on unaffected, with only a slight stress upon their conscience. Well, that would be upon Paul's conscience: he's the only one who seems to notice it happening. As with previous Godard films, this is novelistically divided into chapters, with witty titles, the most famous, about being the children of Marx and Coca-Cola, being one of the more flippant. Call it Godard's Warhol moment. Still, Masculin-Feminine is mesmerizing. It has a deeply flawed central character who is nonetheless likable because he is recognizably human: an intelligent, sensitive student who likes pretty girls and is self-consciously pretentious when socializing. All of the characters, even peripheral, are recognizable; Godard is not (yet) a misanthrope. The realistic dialogue and dashes of misplaced passion elevate what could be another stylistic exercise into brilliant and involving filmmaking.

It makes for an interesting double feature with La Chinoise, a film about genuinely misguided, devoutly passionate youths in a tiny Communist club. Sequestered in a room filled with little red books, they recite Marx to each other while pacing in front of portraits of Chairman Mao, and when they listen to pop music, it's a song called "Mao Mao." They are, in effect, like children playing revolutionary dress-up, a point driven home in the final scene, but when the question arises as to whether or not they should take violent terrorist action, one of their members leaves. This leads to the film's centerpiece scene, as, while riding a train from stop to stop, Veronique (Anne Wiazemsky of Au Hasard Balthazar), the most devoted member of the cause, argues about the value of political violence with her old professor, who can't believe she would be going down such a path. The most impressive aspect of the film is its cinematography, saturated with reds, reds, reds; the ancient print we watched turned most of them to pink, which might be just as appropriate. Basically, this would all make a smart, snappy short film, but at almost 90 minutes it's far too long for its simple premise and cardboard characters.

I was disappointed that Two or Three Things I Know About Her was excluded from the retrospective, so I sought it out on my own time. It's a noble effort by Godard to break free of all conventions that had previously been restraining him. This film is an essay, sometimes spoken by Godard, sometimes spoken by his characters, but a contemplative, complicated theorem which he must slowly build over the course of the film--like Chris Marker's Sans Soleil, except with a less enlightening revelation at the end. The high point of this talky film is when he simply focuses the camera on some bubbles stirring in the middle of a cup of coffee while discussing the cosmos and the birth of consciousness. It's an extraordinary example of making the very small seem transcendent.

While the ostensible protagonist is a career woman who, like Deneuve in Bunuel's Belle de Jour, takes an unnecessary day job as a prostitute. But that bit of plot doesn't seem so interesting to Godard as the extras who stand behind her while she goes about errands, and so we are treated to the philosophies and feelings of tertiary characters, who look directly into the camera and speak candidly, often with breathtaking poetry (just as often with mediocre witticisms). Godard reportedly achieved these long monologues from unprofessional performers by giving them an earpiece and dictating their lines from behind the camera. The results can be remarkably dislocating, such as when a child starts talking politics. It's an indulgent device--and all this film hangs upon apart from the tired tirades against consumerism--but it feels so fresh that it makes the film pleasurable to watch. Naturally, Godard would soon revolt against the idea of "pleasurable" films, and so it's appropriate that 1967's notorious Week-End is a violent revolutionary riot against the viewer.

The first time I made an attempt to watch Week-End was six years ago or so, when I was living in Seattle. It was on cable, and while I missed the first couple of minutes, I came in on the traffic accident tracking shot which is now considered one of the watermarks of cinema in the '60's. Since I have some stupid policy of refusing to watch a movie unless starting it from the beginning, I changed the channel, but not until I saw that long, several-minute-long sequence to its end. Godard begins the shot with his bourgeoise couple, having just set out upon their weekend trip (to possibly commit a murder or two), arriving at a traffic jam on a country road. Those cars which are not pressed up against each other are smashed into trees. As the couple attempts to circumvent the traffic by driving in the opposite lane, the other drivers lay on their horns or race ahead to ensure no one cuts in front of them. If you've ever driven in Seattle, this sounds like a documentary. But it's pushed to surrealistic lengths: the traffic jam contains lions, llamas, chess players, picnic outings, singing children, tea breaks, upside-down cars, cars pointing in the wrong direction (and insistently honking), and grisly violence. Indisputably, it's one of Godard's tour de force moments. I caught up with the entire film about a year ago on DVD. After years of having that shot fixed to my memory, the rest of the film was a disappointment. I'd seen more Godard by then, and this just seemed like more of the same: experimentation for its own sake, abrasiveness, arrogant lectures, cruel violence. I was a little bored by it, and on the small screen, with Godard's distant framing, I couldn't see the character's expressions, or tell them apart. I felt like I was watching a manipulated diorama.

Now, on the big screen and on a second viewing, I have a deeper appreciation for the film--similar to my second approach to Breathless--but I haven't fallen in love, for the flaws are still on display. First the good news: the first half of Week-End is brilliant and designed with the grace of a (grand guignol) ballet. After a lengthy, descriptive, sexually frank monologue between husband and wife that seems intent on topping the one Bergman staged in Persona, Godard gets to the central motif of the film: car crashes. In this mesmerizing vision of the end of the world, Godard convincingly postulates that the apocalypse will come by just a little bit more unfettered rage between the classes. Just a touch more road rage, that's all it takes, and after seeing Week-End, you'll believe it. Fender-benders lead to awkward (and comic) combat, first with tennis rackets and paint guns, then with real weapons, until the roads are strewn with fiery wrecks, posed bodies, and pools of blood. Our unlikable, murder-plotting heroes abandon their flaming car in one of those wrecks and take to the road as hitchhikers; in fact, this could have screened with the Cinematheque's summer road movie series. The further they travel, the more they seem to leave the fabric of reality. They meet Emily Bronte, who delivers a rather moving monologue about a pebble. (She gets burned to a crisp by our callous protagonists.) They admit they're characters in a film. They listen to Mozart played in a pit stop, while the camera tracks in a neverending circle from right to left, as though travelling backward in time. (The intertitles indicate that this film either was found on a trash heap, or is drifting aimlessly through the cosmos.)

All of this works pretty well. The free-form satirical fantasy, as well as the absurd random acts of violence, were born in sequences in Masculin Feminin, Pierrot le fou, and even earlier films; it seems natural that they should suddenly take over and get their own movie. But just when you give Godard enough rope, he hangs himself with it, in one interminable sequence where two garbagemen, eating sandwiches and glaring at the camera, discuss turmoil in Africa and the Middle East, then lecturing about the devolution of so-called "civilized" European societies. Sure, it's critical to get across the notion that societies become more barbaric as they "progress," but isn't the illustration everything we've seen leading up to this point? If you were to scream "Show, not tell!", Godard would probably just deviously drag the scene out for twice the length. He enjoys this kind of torture. You've had your candy, now take your vegetables. This is a new kind of cinema, and cinema can be talking, too. Unfortunately, Godard's ideas here are not all that profound; they're overly familiar. Perhaps that's why Godard is so popular with college students: these are the kind of conversations they hold late night in a dorm room, thinking they've finally gotten to the bottom of CNN. Godard's also popular with the young for his use of shock--not just the jarring jump-cuts and sudden flashes of commentary intertitles, but the use of taboo subject matter and imagery to deliver harsh truths to a presumably middle-to-upper-class audience. (Yeah. You grow out of that.) Here his coup de grace would seem immeasurably more shocking in 1967 than it does now: the revelation that the young hippies will not form a utopia upon the graves of the dead bourgeoisie, but instead will degenerate into cannibalism (and endless drum solos). The final scenes of the film, particularly those involving the slaughter of animals, can be very difficult to watch--and it was interesting to note that all laughter in the theater died when a real pig's throat was really cut, real blood pouring out, the stumpy legs shaking spastically while the "actor" flips the animal over to gut it. Here, finally, was a taboo that was still potent. Godard killed animals on screen? Oh, shit, not him. Finally, as the film drags itself to a close, you get the final, nauseating shot that you actually want to see, because it ties everything into a grisly little bow. I actually felt a little ill after the movie. On the small screen, the impact isn't quite so...impacty.

Still, the movie hasn't aged well, and it wears on and on, so that by the end I was growing really tired of the staginess of Godard's tableaux: here is a man playing drums in the foliage, here is the cannibal cook surrounded by his meat, here is the girl with the gun...he practically puts a spotlight on each as he isolates them. It's all so abrasive and so artificial. Just a week ago we were watching Bela Tarr's Damnation in the same theater, and while Tarr himself would mature into better films, I find myself preferring his rhythm, his careful, contemplative eye, his obsession with capturing the feeling of reality even when indulging in fantasy. What I'm saying is, when you're young, you can start with Godard. Eventually you come around and you appreciate the stillness found in a Tarr film, or a Tarkovsky, or a Bresson, and all the flash, and "commentary," and savage editing and sound that Week-End throws at you seems like the spittle-covered invectives of a third-year philosophy student.

Yet the contradiction here is that only a year before, Godard made Masculin Feminin. Before that, he made Band of Outsiders, A Woman is a Woman, My Life to Live. Those films spoke less, but they said more. By dealing with real characters and real relationships, even when their lives touched upon fantasy or satire, the themes gained greater resonance. I walk away from Week-End devastated and, yes, a little nauseated, which is exactly the effect he intends. But I don't feel enlightened, and devastating work can achieve that too. So I don't think it's a "Great Film." I would hold up his earlier work, when he was a little less cynical, his delivery less pretentious, his ideas more interesting, his techniques more fresh. Next year the Cinematheque is planning a continuation of its Godard survey, moving into his video works as well as his more recent works. Judging by Notre Musique, Godard did mature into something quite different, so it should be interesting to track a new evolution in this artist.