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TitleFrench Cinema: A Student's Guide
PublisherBloomsbury USA
ISBN 139780340760048
CategoryArts - Film
File Size10.8 MB
Total Pages221
Document Text Contents
Page 2

French Cinema:
A Student's Guide

Page 110


Weekend has been interpreted as a satire on bourgeois
materialism, and an expression of Godard's 'feeling of
profound despair at the spectacle of man's inhuman-
ity to man' (MacBean, 1975:47). The emotional nature
of this comment seems to miss completely Godard's
intention of creating a critical distance, both between
the spectator and the characters, and the spectator and
the themes. This intention is primarily achieved by
extensive use of Brecht's Verfremsdungeffekt, or the
alienation effect. Wollen has drawn attention to a num-
ber of ways Godard's more avant-garde work has
employed these techniques, particularly by using
picaresque narrative techniques, and the related effect
of estrangement between the spectator and the char-
acters within a film (see Wollen, 1982). However, much
of the power of Weekend is due to the fact that Godard
was still working, albeit loosely, within the conventions
of classical narrative cinema, and therefore his trans-
gressions still had the ability to shock.

An analysis of the first three scenes of Weekend will
demonstrate how Godard establishes the alienating/
estranging techniques from the very beginning of the
film. The first scene introduces the main characters,
Roland and Corinne, and is set on the balcony and
interior of an apartment. The second scene features
an extended erotic monologue performed inside a
room, while the third scene consists of a fight between
the couple and their neighbours. I hope to show, with
reference to standard definitions of such techniques
as manipulation of mise-en-scene, cinematography, and
diegetic and non-diegetic sound, how Godard uses
Brechtian techniques to achieve a distanciation, after
first appearing loosely to follow cinematic conven-

The introduction is in
two sections. In this first
section, the film is
introduced in broad
terms, but sharply,
because the text opens
immediately on a
questioning of a received
view. As in the previous
essay, the introduction
works well because there
is also the outlining of a
familiar paradox: to
shock people, you must
adhere, if only negatively,
to a set of rules.

The second section of the
introduction relates the
opening comments to the
matter in hand, the rather
tighter focus on the first
three sequences of the film.
These are helpfully thumb-
nailed for the reader,
before a brief list of salient
issues to be covered is
given. Note how the
paradox mentioned in the
first paragraph is here
reprised to remind the
reader of one of the
guiding threads of the
essay, as well as acting as a
transition to the following


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French C inema : A S t u d e n t ' s Guide

In terms of narrative, the opening scenes convey a
great deal of story information, albeit in a compressed
way. What is particularly striking about the first scene
is the way that the spectator is privileged with more
story information than the characters. This is a typical
technique of 'classical' cinema, which Bordwell
describes as 'unrestricted narration' when 'we know
more, we see and hear more, than any or all of the
characters can ... such narration is often called omni-
scient narration1 (Bordwell and Thompson, 1997: 102).
Once Roland has left the room to take a phone call,
Corinne reveals by her intimate tone that the other
man is her lover, and has already attempted to kill
Roland. She confidently explains that he is unsuspect-
ing: 'I have to let him screw me from time to time so
he thinks I love him', but it is then revealed that
Roland is taking the phone call from his lover, and is
in turn confidently proclaiming that Corinne does not
realise he has twice tried to have her killed: 'I've got to
be cautious after those sleeping pills and the gas.'
Thus, a large amount of narrative cues have been skil-
fully conveyed, allowing the spectator to construct
what the Russian Formalists described as the fabula,
namely the 'result of picking up narrative cues, apply-
ing schemata, framing and testing hypotheses'
(Bordwell, 1985a: 49). The information creates a
degree of suspense about who will be killed and how,
and a curiosity on the part of the spectator as to how
the story will unfold.

The following scenes, however, deliberately under-
mine this establishing scene. Although it could be
argued that Corinne's sexual monologue gives us
further information about her lifestyle, and her rela-
tionship with Roland, its nine-minute length puts a
strain on the narrative. This scene could be classed as
retardatory material, i.e. that which delays: 'the
revelation of some information [... to] arouse antici-
pation, curiosity, surprise and suspense' (Bordwell,
1985a: 54). Godard, though, is not trying to create

la) This paragraph's
function is to explain the
way in which the film
begins conventionally. It
ties description of content
firmly to key ideas
developed by theorists,
such as 'classical
narration', the fabula.
The end of the
paragraph completes the
point, and creates its own
suspense within the
conventions of the essay
itself, since the reader
knows that the first point,
conventional techniques,
has been developed, and
is now waiting for the
second point, the way in
which those conventional
techniques are

Ib) This paragraph does
not give the whole
answer; indeed, very
cleverly, it delays the
answer by talking about
Godard's own delaying
techniques. The final
sentence, however, acts as
the cue and transition to
the major points to be


Page 220


Maine, La 46, 48, 53, 155-60
Hexagone 45
Hiroshima mon amour 23-4
Homme qui aimait lesfemmes, L' 30
Humanite, L' 46, 47
Huppert, Isabelle 33, 35
Husard sur le toil, Le 39-40

Jaeckin, Just 35
Jean de Florette 39
Jeux interdits 19
Jeux sont fails, Les 18
Jour de fete 17
Jour se leve, Le 9, 129-35
Journal d'un cure de campagne 16
Jules etjim 22

Kassovitz, Matthieu 46, 155-60
Kurys, Diane 35, 44

Lacombe Lucien 31-2, 34
Lancelot du lac 31
Langlois, Henri 3, 66
Leconte, Patrice 40, 110-26, 150-5
L'Herbier, Marcel 6
Linder, Max 5
Lola 26
Loulou 33, 35
Lumiere brothers 3, 5
Lumiere d'ete 14

Ma nuit chez Maud 30
Malle, Louis 24, 31,33
Maman et la putain, La 31, 32
Manon des Sources 39
Marais, Jean 51
Marceau, Sophie 53
Marseillaise, La II
Masculin feminin 22

Mauvais Sang 41
Melies, Georges 3-4
Melville, Jean-Pierre 17-18, 27
Mepns, Le 22
Metz, Christian 62-6, 68-70
Million, Le 7,8
Mitry, Jean 62
Mon oncle 17
Mon oncle d'Amerique 30
Monsieur Hire 110-26, 111, 150-5
Moreau, Jeanne 27
Morin, Edgar 61-2
Muriel 24

Nana 6
Napoleon 6
Nuitsfauves, Les 45

Ophuls, Marcel 31
Orphee 17
Oury, Gerard 35
Out One 30

Pagnol, Marcel 9-10
Panique 150-5
Parapluies de Cherbourg, Les 26
Paris brule-t-il? 33
Pathe, Charles 4
Peau douce, La 22
Pepe le Moko 9
Perret, Leonce 5
Philipe, Gerard 51
Pialat, Maurice 33, 35, 38
Pickpocket 26
Pierrot le fou 23
Playtime 27
Police 38
Fortes de la nuit, Les 19
Preparez vos mouchoirs 35
Prevert, Jacques 10, 11


Page 221

French Cinema: A S tuden t ' s Gu ide

Quai des brumes, Le 9, 12
400 Coups 21, 22

Rappeneau, Jean-Paul 39
Regie dujeu, La 9, 12
Religieuse, La 23
Renoir, Jean 11-13
Resnais, Alain 23, 30, 38
Rivette, Jacques 23, 30, 37-8
Robbe-Grillet, Alain 23, 24
Rohmer, Eric 23, 30, 38
Romauld et Juliette 44
Rouan, Brigitte 48
Roue, La 6
Royaume des fees, Le 4
Rue de I'Estrapade 19

Salaire de la peur, Le 18
Samourai, Le 27
Sautet, Claude 49
Sauve qui peut [la vie] 29
Serreau, Coline 35, 44
Signe du lion, Le 23
Signoret, Simone 19
Silence de la mer, Le 17
Simon, Michel 9
Souriante Madame Beudet, La 6
Sous les toils de Paris 6-7, 8
Swamp Water 13

Tati, Jacques 17, 27
Tavernier, Bertrand 33, 39, 46, 48

Taxi Driver 48, 156, 158-9
The au harem d'Archimede, Le 45
Therese Raquin 6, 19
Tirez sur le pianiste 22
Touchez pas au grisbi 19
Traversee de Paris, La 18
37° 2 le matin/Betty Blue 41,42, 135-50
Trop belle pour toi 38-9
Truffaut, Francois 16, 21, 22, 29-30,

37, 59-60

Vacances de M. Hulot, Les 17
Valseuses, Les 35
Vampires, Les 5
Varda, Agnes 24-6, 37, 44
Veuve de Saint-Pierre, La 49
Victimes de I'alcoolisme, Les 4
Vie de Jesus, La 46
Vie et rien d'autre, La 39
Vigo,Jean 8, 93-9
Visiteurs, Les 49, 50
Visiteurs du soir, Les 14
Void le temps des assassins 14
Voyage dans la Lune, Le 3-4
Vuillermoz, Emile 56

Weekend 23, 29, 99-110, 100

Y aura-t-il de la neige a Noel? 48, 53

Zecca, Ferdinand 4, 5
Zero de conduite 8, 21


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