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Friday, July 18, 2014

DVD Review: Le Week-End

Le Week-End is an absolutely wonderful film starring Jim Broadbent and Lindsay Duncan as Nick and Meg, a married couple spending a weekend in Paris on their thirtieth anniversary. The film opens on a train. We move down the aisle and settle on the couple. They’re clearly not the happiest folks, and he is looking through his pockets for their euros. Nick says, “You never lose anything.” And Meg responds, “I’ll lose you in a minute.” It’s a cute moment, but works on a much deeper level as well, setting up their perspectives and perhaps their desires. Nick then gets up and goes to another car for a cup of coffee. And there he sits by himself, and it is over that image of him alone, looking out the window, that the film’s title appears. Perfect.

Their room in Paris leaves a bit to be desired. “It’s beige,” Meg points out. And so she leaves, and he follows her to an expensive hotel. These two actors are so good, that their relationship – their history and current state – is almost immediately understood. When Meg goes to the hotel min-bar, Nick tries to stop her, saying “So far this city is a brilliantly designed machine for extracting all our money.”

There is something sweet and loving about their relationship, but also something sad, something lost. As when Nick asks, “Can I touch you,” and Meg responds, “What for?” Yes, it's delightfully funny but also quite sad too. As they’re leaving the hotel Meg says, “I might do it for you later.” Nick asks, “Really?” She says, “If you stay awake.” That line is inherently funny, but not played up or stressed at all, which is great.

There is a wonderful scene where they visit a famous cemetery. Nick says, “I have to say I am amazed by how mediocre I’ve turned out to be.” He reveals he’s been forced into early retirement. Meg says, “It’s not too late for you to find another direction.” And it feels that that is in some ways at the heart of the film. Is it too late? Can people change? What direction will their lives take? Nick says, “People don’t change.” Meg responds: “They do. They get worse.” And at a restaurant, Meg talks about starting again. She later tells Nick, “The other day, I’ll have you know, a young man, not entirely retarded, tried to pick me up.”

The film also stars Jeff Goldblum as Morgan, a man who knew Nick at school, and who suddenly runs into Nick and Meg on the street and invites them to a small party at his place. Jeff Goldblum is always interesting. He has these magnificent moments in every performance, where something is revealed. Here it comes when telling Nick about his life and his new wife in Paris. He says: “And she adores me. Can’t see through me, yet, but we know she will. I mean, she will.” It’s his delivery of “I mean, she will” that hits me hard. Up until then he’s been playing the host. He’s been talking at one level. And in this brief moment, in one sad line, spoken simply, his whole life is exposed. Jeff Goldblum is so adept at doing that, at picking just the right moment to reveal something more.

At one point, Band Of Outsiders is playing on the television – that famous and wonderful dance scene. Nick and Meg dance along to the image on screen. And later the scene is recreated. It’s totally delightful. I ended up just absolutely loving this film.

Le Week-End was directed by Roger Michell, who also directed Notting Hill and Venus.

Special Features

The DVD includes an audio commentary track by director Roger Michell and producer Kevin Loader. They mention that the first shot on the train was in fact the first shot done in production. The other folks on the train are all crew members, including Kevin Loader. It is interesting to learn where certain elements of the story came from. For example, Kevin had moved into a new house with rats. There are nice tidbits, like how the props person created white wine (water, with just drops of cola). They talk a bit about the Godard influence on the film. There is also interesting stuff about the scene where Jeff Goldblum meets the couple on the street, done with somewhat hidden cameras with long lenses, similar to the way parts of They All Laughed was shot.

A Weekend In Paris: The Making Of Le Week-End features interviews with cast and crew members, including writer Hanif Kureishi, director Roger Michell, producer Kevin Loader, and cast members Jim Broadbent, Lindsay Duncan and Jeff Goldblum. Lindsay Duncan gives some interesting thoughts on the differences in her approach to a role when the writing is good versus when the writing isn’t so good. There is a bit of behind-the-scenes footage as well. This feature is approximately sixteen minutes.

The special features also include a gallery of nineteen illustrations done by Jane Webster, as well as the film's trailer, and a short bit on how to dance "The Madison." (I tried to follow along with the dance, but I'm hopeless at it.)

Le Week-End was released on DVD on July 8, 2014.

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