Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Le Week-End, 1967. Jean-Luc Godard- Palden MacGamwell

This paper will summarize the main results of my case study of “Le Week-End” in regard on the costumes and color palettes. “Le Week-End” was shot in the French countryside in 1967 by French-Swiss filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard, who was one of the “Nouvelle Vague” leaders.

The married bourgeoisie couple Roland and Corinne Durand are leaving Paris on a weekend to visit Corinne’s dying father to secure her inheritance. On their trip to Oinville, they get in a car accident and are from then on forced to hitchhike. After having lived through a lot of misadventures, they finally arrive at her parent’s house only to discover that Corinne’s father has already died and that her mother got all the money. Without hesitation, Roland and Corinne murder the mother and run of with the money. But on their way back to Paris, a cannibalistic guerilla group called F.L.S.O, who are living in the forest, capture them. Roland dies by the attempt to escape. The last scene shows how Corinne enjoys eating her husband’s flesh.

With his last commercial film “Le Week-End”, Godard had created a dystopia where Western society has come to an apocalyptic end due to its own never satisfied consumerism.

In a political and social perspective, “Le Week-End” can be seen as a typical product of the ideological fight of its time. The Cold War being at its climax, the film clearly shows the trial of strength between capitalism and communism that also divided the French society into the working class and the Bourgeoisie. The political events such as the abandonment of colonial politics and the Vietnam War influenced therefore especially the young generations of After-War Europe. More and more dissatisfied with the old political structures, the youth finally showed its disaffection in the protests of Mai 68. However “Le Week-End” also represents the “Nouvelle Vague” movement that broke with the traditions of the French “Cinéma de Qualité”. Within the “New Wave” movement, style is more valued than content whereas the moral message should be found in the form of the film.

Although Godard has often worked with the wardrobe designers Gitt Margini and Jacqueline Moreau, there is no indication of their participation in “Le Week-End”. Instead, Mireille Darc who is interpreting the figure of Corinne remembers “Godard took me to a boutique in the Rue Tronchet in order to choose my “Petit Bourgeois” look”.

As in all of his films shot in the 60’s, Godard repeats the color palette of red-white-blue also in “Le Week-End” for example in the title page and in a car crash scene. Godard’s fascination of the tricolor is often explained by his rejection of nationalism. As the colors of the flags of France and The United States of America, their repetition can be interpreted as a critic on both countries in general, and more specifically on their foreign policies and economical design.

Through the narration of the film, the character of Corinne undergoes some transformation. Whereas in the beginning of the film, she is a member of the upper class, in the end of “Le Week-End” she has become a rebel of the FLSO group.

This alteration of her character is also expressed by Her different looks. As a representative of the upper middle-class, Corinne is dressed in a black “Chez Dolores” dress with white collars, black shoes with small heels and a beige trench coat. Sunglasses, a yellow scarf and a Hermès handbag complete her look that is referred to as “Petit Bourgeois”.

Thus, her look is influenced by the French designer Yves Saint-Laurent. However, when the couple gets into a car accident and is therefore forced to hitchhike to their destination, her costume slightly adapts to the new situation. Her 2nd look is therefore less chic as she wears a man’s hat over her bob haircut and a blue/green pullover over the same dress she wore before. Her look undergoes a more radical change, when she becomes a hostage of the FLSO rebels. At this point of the film her sweater is replaced by a green one. Although she still wears the Dolores dress, her transformation into an outlaw has been commented by her white head bandana stained with blood.

Finally in the last scene of “Le Week-End”, as Corinne has been accepted as a full member, she wears a yellow rain jacket over a colorful striped sweater and a green headband. Meanwhile it is important to notice, that Corinne still wears her “Chez Dolores Dress” when she supposedly has already become a full member of the FLSO group. This might be an ironical indication that Corinne is inside still a petite Bourgeois even though she might have transformed on the outside.

To conclude it is important to notice that the characters of “Le Week-End” seem to wear costumes that represent their social appearances rather than their personality. There is, for example, Corinne and Roland as representatives of the upper-middle class who are dressed in a “Petit Bourgeois” look or the farmer that is wearing his working clothes and is representing the Working class. With this in mind, I would say that the costumes (and the colors) are very important to the movie as they reflect Godard’s vision of a divided society.

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