Friday, September 16, 2022

Jean-Luc Godard - Pierrot le Fou

This week I've been reprinting the reviews I wrote back in 2016 of the bluray boxed set of movies by the late, great, and legendary director, Jean-Luc Godard. The fourth film in the set, and the fourth movie in my reviews, is for 1965's 'Pierrot le Fou'.

(review originally published in January 2016)

On the 1st February 2016, STUDIOCANAL is releasing a new boxed set of films of the legendary director Jean-Luc Godard on blu-ray. Over the last few weeks I’ve reviewed the first three discs in the set - now it’s time to look at 1965’s “Pierrot le Fou”.

After the attempt at a big budget “Hollywood” movie with “Contempt”, Godard returns to his simpler roots with a familiar tale of a criminal couple on the run, discussing the meaning of life and art, while on an unstoppable course for self-destruction.

Jean-Paul Belmondo, one of Godard’s regulars, plays Ferdinand Griffon, a former TV writer whose marriage to a wealthy Italian wife bores him. At a party designed to introduce him to a potential employer, he realises he is surrounded by idiots. The party-goers dialogue sounds like fake television commercials and everyone is so dull, compared to Ferdinand who spends his time reading, looking at art, and thinking about life.

He leaves the party early, and runs off with his babysitter - a former lover, Marianne, played by another Godard favourite (and wife at the time), Anna Karina. At her apartment filled with guns and a dead man killed with a pair of scissors, he discovers she is gun running and being chased by gangsters involved in the Algerian war. They steal the dead man’s car and drive off to the country.

Marianne quickly gets bored of hiding in the idilic countryside, and the gangsters soon catch up with them, but it will eventually be their own self destruction that will end their relationship.

Pierrot le Fou is typical Godard. Beautifully filmed, with striking colours, with a feel of “make it up as we go along” that has become so synonymous with his movies. Sequences are shown out of chronological order, and characters break the fourth wall repeatedly - there is a great moment where the leads are driving, and Ferdinand turns to the camera to talk over his shoulder. Marianne asks who he’s talking to - “The audience!” is his reply. Obviously! 

Continuing the feel of Contempt, this one is not a cheery film. It has its moments of surreality and humour, and even a couple of almost musical numbers. But in the end, the feel is that of loss, betrayal and dislocation. Of wanting more from life, to truly experience one’s feelings, but finding a lack of sense. 

It also hammers home some political messages in a less than subtle way - not in the least when they put on a “play” to raise money from tourists that depicts the Vietnam war.

A moving and cerebral film that will stick with you long after the dramatic ending.

The blu-ray is suitably gorgeous, as you can imagine, bringing out all of Godard’s colour use beautifully. The audio is clean and cool as well. 

Extras include a 50+ minute documentary (Godard, Love and Poetry), and introduction by Colin McCabe, a subtitled “commentary” of the entire film by Jean-Bernard Pouy analysing the film, and an interview with Anna Karina.

Godard: The Essential Collection Blu Ray is released on the 1st February 2016, and I’ll be reviewing the final disc in the set, Alphaville, next week.

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