-->
Film

Roger Michell's Homage to Godard Leaves Its Characters Literally Breathless

Roger Michell and Hanif Kureishi reunite in Le Week-End, a surprisingly uncompromising portrait of a long, restless marriage.


Le Week-End

Director: Roger Michell
Cast: Jim Broadbent, Lindsay Duncan, Jeff Goldblum
Distributor: Curzon
Rated: 15
UK Release date: 2014-02-10
Affiliate

“You always did edit out the arguments and the misery,” Meg (Lindsay Duncan) says accusatorily to her husband Nick (Jim Broadbent), though at the more jovial end of her oscillating mood. Nick, you sense, would be squirming uncomfortably in his seat at a screening of Le Week-End, for it purposefully edits out very little from this glimpse of a festering marriage, whether misery or happiness.

Roger Michell’s latest collaboration with writer Hanif Kureishi feels their age, not just in the age of the protagonists on-screen (Broadbent 64, Duncan 63), but in the spacious pacing of Michell’s (57) filmmaking and the grouchy concerns of Kureishi’s (59) script. This is a refined, silky film that rarely gets conceived, let alone made, and the increasingly heavy feeling of the central relationship comes with a gravitas that only the foundations of time and experience can compel.

To celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary, Nick and Meg decide to return to their honeymoon locale: Paris. The camera shudders as the Eurostar train rattles through the countryside, tracking backwards to find the pair seated quietly, comfortable in the cosy indifference of their coupling. Unseen, at home, a layabout adult son divides them in concept more than in practice; what separates them on French ground is their personalities, which seem to have lost their synchronicity and put them repeatedly at odds. Like the same year’s Before Midnight, it’s a rare glimpse of what comes after the happy ending, and how romance isn’t sustainable on the idealised high with which cinema so insistently captures it.

All this isn’t to say that Le week-end is without its humour and pleasures. Broadbent, a familiarly genial, ruffled middle-class figure, is on fine form, and his chemistry with Duncan – a less prolific performer, but no less seasoned into an earthy familiarity – makes the more incidental scenes of their intimate interplay sing with realism. Michell captures this with a light, alert shooting style, consciously aping Godard with a loose jazz score and fluid depiction of the city’s movement.

Broadbent and Duncan have mapped out the grooves of the characters by feel rather than by thought, making their rapport instantly recognisable as they struggle across Paris with their baggage. When they reach their hotel – a dirty, pokey, “beige” little place Nick remembers fondly – the power dynamic is set alight. Meg isn’t having any of this cheap, run down nonsense, turning prickly to both husband and manager as she walks out the door. Nick, helpless, can only join her, and soon they’re shelling out for the penthouse suite of an expensive hotel in close proximity to the Eiffel Tower. “Whatever it costs is fine,” insists Meg, her voice barbed with a challenge to her cowed husband.

If Kureishi’s work, as he suggested recently in a television interview with Alan Yentob, is often a struggle between a restless character and a more settled, traditional soul, Le week-end somewhat unusually casts the female in the more active position, as Meg pushes and pulls against a marriage she sees as rather staid.

She proves unpredictable as the pair do things as ordinary as walking down the cobbled streets; she commands Nick to wait outside the restaurant and then makes her escape through a side exit to avoid paying the bill. She repeatedly tries to provoke something unexpected in the “pathetically dependent” Nick – and it would perhaps not be cinema if this weren’t the first time in years, you imagine, when he decides to fight back. When he commands Meg to show him her breasts, Duncan’s pause makes it clear that the unknown has reared its head in their relationship.

As the film progresses, the intrinsic difference between the couple becomes the source of great conflict, with the diversion of other characters provoking transgressive and volatile behaviour in both Nick and Meg. They quite suddenly bump into Nick’s college roommate, Morgan (Jeff Goldblum), who interrupts their typically passionate (it’s one extreme or the other) embrace on a Parisian street and invites them to his dinner party. While Morgan’s appearance stirs memories in Nick, it’s the man’s family members who, in an extended and somewhat contrived act of the film, unintentionally needle the couple.

The solace the pair finds in Morgan’s wife and son is momentary and illusory, and its brevity makes apparent that it’s merely the difference of a new perspective that alters things for the couple, rather than anything specific in dialogue or action. While the following dinner table scene rings false, Kureishi is perceptive in idea: these shifts, more than anything, underline the danger and instability of marriage and tying yourself to a single person. This may have been arbitrarily condensed into a brief time period, but the acting often brings an affecting dynamism to an unflattering reality, making Le week-end a surprisingly uncompromising experience.

The release comes with a feature commentary by Roger Michell and producer Kevin Loader; their deep, masculine voices move between erudite and dull, echoing Morgan more than the main characters in their dry, factual but smart discussion. Piecemeal press interviews – one Broadbent and Duncan, effusive about the script; the other Kureishi and Michell – a seven minute observational, unnarrated look behind the scenes, and a short compilation of sketchbook imagery are the remainder of the rather unilluminating extras.

6
Music

The Best Indie Rock of 2017

Photo courtesy of Matador Records

The indie rock genre is wide and unwieldy, but the musicians selected here share an awareness of one's place on the cultural-historical timeline.

Indie rock may be one of the most fluid and intangible terms currently imposed upon musicians. It holds no real indication of what the music will sound like and many of the artists aren't even independent. But more than a sonic indicator, indie rock represents a spirit. It's a spirit found where folk songsters and punk rockers come together to dialogue about what they're fed up with in mainstream culture. In so doing they uplift each other and celebrate each other's unique qualities.

With that in mind, our list of 2017's best indie rock albums ranges from melancholy to upbeat, defiant to uplifting, serious to seriously goofy. As always, it's hard to pick the best ten albums that represent the year, especially in such a broad category. Artists like King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard had a heck of a year, putting out four albums. Although they might fit nicer in progressive rock than here. Artists like Father John Misty don't quite fit the indie rock mold in our estimation. Foxygen, Mackenzie Keefe, Broken Social Scene, Sorority Noise, Sheer Mag... this list of excellent bands that had worthy cuts this year goes on. But ultimately, here are the ten we deemed most worthy of recognition in 2017.

Keep reading... Show less

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less
Music

The Best Country Music of 2017

still from Midland "Drinkin' Problem" video

There are many fine country musicians making music that is relevant and affecting in these troubled times. Here are ten of our favorites.

Year to year, country music as a genre sometimes seems to roll on without paying that much attention to what's going on in the world (with the exception of bro-country singers trying to adopt the latest hip-hop slang). That can feel like a problem in a year when 58 people are killed and 546 are injured by gun violence at a country-music concert – a public-relations issue for a genre that sees many of its stars outright celebrating the NRA. Then again, these days mainstream country stars don't seem to do all that well when they try to pivot quickly to comment on current events – take Keith Urban's muddled-at-best 2017 single "Female", as but one easy example.

Keep reading... Show less

It's ironic that by injecting a shot of cynicism into this glorified soap opera, Johnson provides the most satisfying explanation yet for the significance of The Force.

Despite J.J. Abrams successfully resuscitating the Star Wars franchise with 2015's Star Wars: The Force Awakens, many fans were still left yearning for something new. It was comforting to see old familiar faces from a galaxy far, far away, but casual fans were unlikely to tolerate another greatest hits collection from a franchise already plagued by compositional overlap (to put it kindly).

Keep reading... Show less
7

Yeah Yeah Yeahs played a few US shows to support the expanded reissue of their debut Fever to Tell.

Although they played a gig last year for an after-party for a Mick Rock doc, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs hadn't played a proper NYC show in four years before their Kings Theatre gig on November 7th, 2017. It was the last of only a handful of gigs, and the only one on the East coast.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image