Jean-Luc Godard’s “Weekend” (1967)

Week 6 – Screening and discussion of Jean-Luc Godard’s 1967 black comedy, “Weekend”

We started by considering how to analyse a film.

We must consider:

  • form and content, the script, the genre, the acting, the soundtrack,
  • the narrative, the voice, the perspective, the structure
  • meta-text and meta-narrative – is the text or story part of something bigger? does it relate to other films/ stories?
  • interpretation – how can we interpret it? what school of criticism do we use to do so? Freudian? feminist? queer theory? marxist?
  • context – what was going on at the time of the film that would influence a) how the film was written and b) how the first audiences would interpret it
  • technique: the lighting, composition, sets, performance, editing, camera movement, external information.

Film is a visual, time-based medium so we must keep an eye on what camera position and composition are trying to tell us.

French film magazine “Du Cinéma” was founded in 1951, and it reset the basic tenets of film criticism and theory. Writers included Truffaut and Godard himself; the magazine was centred on analysis. Truffaut wrote the ‘les politiques des Autuer’ manifesto in 1954, resulting in the re-evaluation of Hollywood films and directors, including Hawks, Ray, Aldrich, Hitchcock, Lang. By centring on mise-en-scene, directors could be compared and contrasted thus film dialogue develops. The magazine was essential to creation of Nouvelle Vague.

Jean-Luc Godard:

He had 3 films in the top 50 BFI list: 13 – Breathless (1960), 21 – Le Mepris (1963), 42 Pierrot Le fou (1965).

He revolutionised socialism in cinema, played with form and genre, and was quoted as saying “all you need for a movie is a gun and a girl.”

“Weekend”:

Director: Jean-Luc Godard. Cinematographer: Raoul Coutard. Edit: Agnès Guillemot. Music: Antoine Duhamel. Sound: René Levert.

Multiple cross-cultural references, remarkable camera work (camera movement as meaning), highly influential, ‘apocalyptic’, satire, anarchy, cinema, hollywood, revolution, location, socialism, style, ‘narrative’, polemic, Brecht’s theory of alienation

The film itself struck me immediately as extremely clever. One of the main things that struck me was the constant occurrence of terrible things, so frequent they become normal, which is reflected in the characters’ apathetic reactions to them.

The focus on the two main characters throughout gave an interesting perspective on the many weird and wonderful characters they meet on their journey, including the clan of anarchic hippies they both join at the end of the film.

Use of camera technique is extremely important. A scene where this is particularly important is one where we hear the cultural backgrounds/struggles of two working class young men. We hear their stories in one at a time, and each time the camera focuses on the first while the second recites the first’s story. Another is the scene where the pair reach the mother, hoping to secure her inheritance – there is a close-up of a rabbit carcass with the mother’s blood being spilled on it, accompanied by a monologue; extremely jarring to see.

 

 

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Letter Press Workshop

The letter press was one of the most important inventions possibly of all time. It was the first means of producing many identical copies of the same text, thereby enabling books to be mass printed for the first time.

It was invented in the mid 15th century by Johannes Gutenberg, a German blacksmith, goldsmith, printer and publisher. He introduced printing to Europe, and was the first person to use movable type. His letterpress method was the primary method of distributing information from its invention until the the 20th century, so a good 500 years. Gutenberg’s Bible was the first book to be printed this way – around 180 copies were printed – at 1,282 pages it took Gutenberg and his staff around 3 years to complete.

The original wooden letterpress machine was based on a wine press, which was used to crush grapes. Printing is done by rolling ink onto the type, which is made of raised letters (which you arrange and carefully double-check) and use a huge screwing mechanism (much like the wine press) to clamp the paper down on the type.

The workshop took place in the University’s graphics department. It helped us understand the history of the machine, its historical significance, and how it works. We divided into groups. each group had a set of block letters, a different colour ink, and a press. we had to ink the letters, arrange them how we wished, place a piece of paper gently on top of them and use a roller to press it down. In our groups we created images and swapped them around so we could collaborate on pieces. We were given the theme of “fireworks” – having a theme really helped because it got the proverbial creative ball rolling.

Before the workshop I had never used a letterpress nor really appreciated their significance in literature. I left the workshop with a basic understanding of how to use one and some ideas of how to incorporate the letterpress into my artistic practice.

 

 

Green Screen Workshop

One of my week 6 (enhancement week) workshops was the green screen workshop, where we learned about how to use lighting to make the subject of a film appear well-lit as well as well as making sure the green screen had no shadows or ripples, as this tends to ruin the effect.

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1. Shown here is an example of the green-screen technology working. Dave, who had to step in to run the workshop as Angus was away, explained that despite the name ‘green screen,’ the process can work with a screen of any solid colour. Green is often used because it is not a colour that often appears on clothes.

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2. Umbrella lights – useful for creating a soft, white glow that encompasses a large area.

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3. A ‘black screen’ – black is not often used as a screen colour because when the image is imposed on black, it often shows up in the shadowy areas of the subject being filmed.

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4. These lights are small, but bright, and are very easy to move around. Also, the angle from which the light comes (from the floor) is useful to remove any shadows from a green screen.

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7. Getting the camera at the right distance to focus on the subject is vital.

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8. The angle of the lighting is extremely important. It depends what kind of effect you are going for, but in general, lighting the subject evenly rather than from just one side helps them appear contrasting enough to the screen for the effect to work properly.

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9. Filming the subject in the dark is also an option, but the screen would still have to be well-lit; also black would not be an ideal colour to use for this exercise because of the obvious shadowy areas – the whole point is to contrast the subject as much as possible from the green screen.

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10. Sometimes shadows may be what you’re going for in a film, but if working with a screen it is important to adjust the lighting so the subject casts no shadow on it – a shadow will be clearly visible and ruin the effect.

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12. Sometimes low-tech is best – although unconventional, a reflective surface such as tin foil can be useful for directing light exactly where you want it.

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The green screen workshop was brilliant – I had never done anything quite like it before, and it was fascinating to learn about all the different elements of using screens. The things I learned in this workshop were extremely useful when making our films in the spring term.

Creative Writing workshop

The creative writing workshop was a fantastic experience. It was especially good for me as I study English Lit, so it enabled me to indulge in my love for writing. It was a really inspiring session because I have always wanted to be able to write creatively, but have always struggled – this session helped give me ideas and build confidence in my ability to write. This was especially important because this workshop happened right before the imaginary artwork assignment was set, so it helped me come up with ideas for my writing.

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Pictured above is the first exercise we did – it was simply to do a random “doodle” for about five minutes. This was actually great practice for my painting piece because it involved simply drawing without any thought.
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Above is the second exercise we did – we flicked through the poetry books we brought, chose five lines at random from five different poems and made a poem from them. This was a really interesting exercise, because while the result seems a bit disjointed, it brings together the work of five different poets, creating a rich world of metaphor and poetic language.
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Our next exercise was to choose one line from a poem at random, and write a whole poem including that line. I randomly chose the line “twig by twig the night-entangled trees” (poem unknown), and I had the idea to carry on the “night-englangled” metaphor by writing about the sun, and how it stops the night from “entangling” the trees.
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The final exercise was to bring together all of the lines and phrases that we had picked out from various poems, and form our own poem using them – this means we could add our own material as well. Pictured above are all the lines we had to choose from.

I first chose the line “friend of my youth” because this line carries a lot of emotion; I felt there was a lot I could write surrounding this. I chose the topic of losing a long-term friend, because there was a lot of sad imagery to choose from in the list. I chose not to rhyme this one because the lack of a rhyme scheme gives the impression of speech; and gives an almost confessional tone, making it seem more emotional.

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Overall, the exercise gave me a lot of confidence in my ability to write poetry; in fact it made me consider writing a poem for my imaginary artwork assignment.