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November 29, 2010 / tabrayzkhan

Godard’s use of INTER-TITLES in weekend is an argument in favour of Walter Benjamin’s view: ‘That which withers in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction is the aura of the work of art’. Discuss this view.

Weekend Title

“That which withers in the age of mechanical reproduction is the aura of the work of art” is a quote from Walter Benjamin’s artwork essay ‘The Age of Mechanical Reproduction’ published in 1936. In which he discusses how human perception changes with the continual existence of humanity and with these changes comes the decaying of the aura of art and how we experience it. Goddard acknowledges this, in to ways in Weekend.

First is the use of Brechtian theatrical devices, in which he is acknowledging that film is essentially just a reproduction of theatre, where due to the transition the aura of the true stage actor has withered, cinema is just an illusion of  the real thing. “I see no difference between the theatre and movies. It is all theatre. It is simply a matter of understanding what theatre means. That is not generally understood. I mean, what you call the place where a movie is made if not a theatre”, The second way in which Goddard acknowledges Benjamin view is, with the use of pop art imagery in his inter-titles, which we are regularly shown through out the film. he uses these as an innovation on the breachtian distancing device. By introducing language, in to the equation, Godard is using the tool of language to further distance the audience from the action and show them, they are actually watching a move. Godard is also telling us that Film is just a reproduction of language and both are the same.

“If anything his obsession with language became more pronounced than ever as he pioneered new forms of grammar in feature filmmaking, most the characters in his movies are endlessly talking, and his camera flashes to full screen inter-titles or snippets from books, periodicals, combating the lure of the materialistic often dehumanizing spectacles peddled by the mass market culture industry.”

Like Benjamin, Godard is also a Modernist and Marxist. He seems to be in favour of Benjamin view, as he understands film is not really a visual medium, and is one of  the few artists of cinema who has understood the power of text. By using this technique of text in film, he engages different parts of the viewers brain. like a good painting that is almost a cartoon there is somehow more truth in it, because what is interesting to Godard, especially in Weekend is the artists interpretation, rather than the attempt to impersonate.

Weekend doesn’t have a predictable story; it’s more like a portrait, an impressionistic portrait of the period of time and the political ideas. The inter-titles are satirising bourgeois society, who just absorb ideas and turn them in to fashion statements, continually being reproduced to satisfy the culture industry. The whole of Weekend in this view can be seen as apart of this satire.

the inter-titles Goddard uses, say “A film found on the scrap heap“, A film adrift in the cosmos“, the first inter-title  relates to the produce and art which comes from modern bourgeois society. Where every thing is reproduced from the same heap of dirt, same waste-basket. Godard is foreshadowing what will happen to Weekend after we have finished watching it, and consumed it. It will be thrown in to the ‘waste basket’, where all commodities end up in a consumerist society, from where capitalist media reproduces endless garbage for the  masses. The latter inter-title is the film being , self conscious of its own madness, pessimism, and self aware of that fact that it is a hard film to consume and take in. This is apart of Godard’s aims with weekend, which is to make a film which is un-consumable, but can be digested, “a marijuana brownie, rather than a three-course bourgeois meal”. However as he finds out later in his career that nothing really can “remain untouched by commodification.”

However, the title frame seen above, with Weekend repeated over and over, is more closely related to Andy Warhol, who Godard was influenced by. It evokes the assembly line aesthetic of pop, which rejects Benjamin’s notion that art should  have “unique” or “special” properties – a sort of “aura”, If not then it is neither genuine or authentic. Andy Warhol characterised the mechanised processes that produced pop in the 1960’s, his artwork was not to hide the “mass manufactured origin”. The title frame also shows its pop relations, with its use, use of red, white and blue as its primary colours.

“He makes language out of the images, integrating visual material into a language like a structure with recognizable grammar. The weekend title card turns language in to image since its verbal meaning is considerably less striking than its shape, color, and overall visual impact”.

It could be argues that,  title merely reflects an important aspect of Godard’s artistic method, which is his habit of putting words and pictures into “productive competition” with each other. However the image captures the zeitgeist of the twentieth and twenty first century, where quantity slowly  becomes more valued than quality.

Even though Godard uses Andy Warhols’s techniques of pop art, his affirmation and aims are radically different, and are more in line with those of Benjamin’s. He would later go on to renounce, commercial film and cinema altogether. Instead searching for other ways to distribute and exhibit his films, this would be his venture in to the ultra political, in a way the weekend title, stamped repeatedly is a parody of the industry Godard is going to abandon, and move away from, it is his last tribute to the, industry he has slowly fallen out with over the years. To him Hollywood and the underground were one and the same  industry, “Hollywood filmmaker and Underground Filmmaker live in the same house but work in different rooms; one works at the top floor the other in the cellar”.

“Cinema is not a dream or fantasy. It is life. I see no difference between movies and life. They are the same.”

REFERENCES:

  1. Kaja Silverman and Harun Farocki (1998). Speaking about Godard. New York: New York University. 83-113.
  2. Jean luc Godard Interviews, Edited by David Sterritt, University Press Mississippi, 1998, p20-47
  3. DVD Interview with director Mike Figgis WEEKEND (1967) A FILM BY JEAN-LUC GODARD, DVD Release Date: August 23 2005, New Yorker Video,
  4. French Film directors – Jean-Luc Godard, Douglas Morrey, Manchester University Press 2005, and p78
  5. The films of Jean-Luc Godard – Seeing the Invisible, David Sterritt, Cambridge University Press 1999, p 89-125
  6. http://www.rochester.edu/in_visible_culture/issue3/ganis.htm: Essay on Warhol
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