Sunday, October 31, 2010

Halloween Weekend

Zombie bourgeois murderers, kids dressed as Indians, twisted corpses of burning cars and human bodies, Emily Bronte and Tom Thumb in the forest, the son of God and Alexandre Dumas pulls a rabbit from a glove compartment, cannibal hippie revolutionaries nonchalantly eat’s a Halloween Weekend.
The horror!
Before fights at Ricky’s over pre-packaged costumes based on Hollywood blockbusters and opportunities for cleavage, once, masks and costumes were worn on Halloween to ward off evil spirits on the sacred day in which the boundaries between the dead and the living slipped and blurred, and the light half of the year gave way to the dark. In Jean-Luc Godard’s Weekend (1967), naked capitalism exposes only horror and more horror, as the living dead screw each other, kill each other, and eat each other; feeling emotion only for their cars, Hermès bags, and cash. Their all-consuming consumption reveals Weekend's main characters, Corinne and Roland, to be masks with clothes that ride in machines. Halloween’s symbolism of light and dark has no place here; we are in a flat world without season. Relentlessly without respite, the outlook is dark, though on this weekend night never comes. No rest for the greedy.

Worker, bourgeois brat, 
just another exchangeable costume, 
Weekend’s incisive critique of the culture of consumption begins as deliciously humorous, and then leaves you feeling as empty as the cartons on the garbage truck Corinne and Roland hitch a ride on. And yet there are moments of rupture, almost rapture, which Kaja Silverman describes in Speaking About Godard as “the desire for a resacralization of a flat or desacralized world.” She points to a scene I am particularly interested in, that moved me for a moment out of the world of waste and the sound of car crashes: one of the hippie cannibals beats on a drum facing away from us, towards the river, chanting “I greet you ancient ocean.” 
Harun Farocki reads this moment as one in which there is an acknowledgment of the “desire for absolute value” which disappears as we realize the river is not “the domain of the gods...but a little watering hole where families go to swim.” While I agree that this rupture is contained and ultimately unsustainable, I also read it as the suggestion of the potential call to a return to year zero that Godard speaks of. A return to year zero is also a terrifying possibility. What would it entail? This is not a moment of redemption, no matter how much I might want it to be, but the primal sound of the drum and call to the river remind us—briefly—of a different state of being, or a place of origin. And yet, the incantation is spoken with the same indifference as Corinne’s recounting of her sexual adventures, the same indifference with which Roland allows Corinne to be assaulted. 
The river is not portentous—again, there can be no deep symbols here. As we read in Godard on Godard, the sea in Pierrot Le Fou and Le Mépris is not the sea of the gods, but just “nature, the presence of nature, which is neither romantic nor tragic” (219). Perhaps this is why in Weekend, the river retains some charge, because it simply is, pre-existent, the same and yet always different.  
Following this incantation, we come to the final scene in which Corinne eats Roland’s flesh, another moment that could be ritualistic but, as Silverman and Farocki point out, is devoid of meaning or sacrifice (107). This scene communicates the trouble facing any revolutionary movement: by employing the violence of the oppressive regime of consumption, you open yourself to the possibility of becoming another version of the same. It’s far too easy. After all, you are what you eat.

-Ruchi Mital

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