Husband and wife Roland (Jean Yanne) and Corinne Durand (Mireille Darc) are plotting the murder of her parents so they can get their hands on Corinne's inheritance money. Roland wishes her mother would simply die in a car crash to save them the trouble of killing her, but no such luck for them: this weekend they must travel to the home of the parents in the country to commit the deed themselves. However, as they watch a pair of drivers attack each other in the street below, they have no idea that they will soon be descending into a certain kind of hell...
Reportedly the film Jean-Luc Godard made after his chance to direct Bonnie and Clyde fell through, Weekend saw the famed iconoclast at his most irate, his chief target being the typically obvious one for the trendy left: that's right, it's those bourgeoisie. And nowhere are there more despicable middle classes than in the persons of Roland and Corinne, in a cartoonish example of characterisation that makes them utterly hateful in their boorish, materialist and blinkered personalities that set them up as fall guys for Godard's political obsessions from the start.
That beginning might seem as if we're in for the kind of thriller Claude Chabrol might have indulged in, but soon after Corinne is regaling her therapist, who might also be her lover, with a long and sexually explicit monologue that sounds like something out of a porn magazine but gradually becomes increasingly ridiculous, until you wonder if this actually happened or if she's relating a dream she had. This is the pattern, if there is a pattern, the film takes as it opens with a clear narrative and eventually ends up as some kind of absurdist nightmare.
If this sounds to you like a chore to sit through, then you can imagine Godard would be delighted, as on this evidence you're not intended to take the prospect of watching Weekend, or many of his other films, lightly. Indeed, it's as if he's staring intently at the viewer, daring them to blink first by putting up such stark images that at one turn might be genuinely funny, then the next absolutely sickening. Nowhere is this contrast more evident than in the film's most famous sequence, a tracking shot that in a move summing up Godard's audacity, lasts almost ten minutes and consists of a traffic jam Roland and Corinne have been caught up in.
It goes on so long you think it must be a joke, but if it does it has a pitch black punchline: the bloodied bodies of a young family laid out at the roadside. Our protagonists are so uncaring they speed on by, not giving this a second thought, yet everywhere from then on they will encounter wrecked cars and vehicles strewn about like so many carcasses around the landscape as if to needle them about their lack of moral compass. Even more needling are the people they encounter, so much so that Roland complains that he is in a rotten film because all they meet are crazies. Those crazies include Emily Bronte, who so incenses the couple that they set fire to her, a couple of binmen who grind the action to a halt for some far left lecturing, and finally a terrorist cell who indulge in cannibalism and have helped bring about an apocalyptic war in all the time Roland and Corinne have been lost. Not for everybody, if you can take this assault on the intellect then you'll find one of the very best from Godard: no one else could have come close to Weekend.