Pierrot Le Fou (1965), or Godard, How I Love The Things You Do

7 07 2009

Okay, I tried to forget you, Godard. After the two amazing films you’ve put on here (Contempt and Breathless), I felt like having another one would just be overload. But then I thought, “Fuck it, people need to know about these movies! I have an obligation to these readers, this blog, and the citizens of the free world to let people in on the works of this amazing director!” So, here I am again to report to you another great film from the mind of the master auteur, Jean-Luc Godard. Damn it, he’s just too good.

In his tenth feature in only half as many years, Godard creates a suspenseful film about the relationships we make. I won’t reveal too much, but it starts when a bored and unhappy man is fired from his position at a TV station. So he does what any normal, sane man would do; he leaves his wife and child (!), runs away with the babysitter (!!), and gets caught up in Algerian gangster intrigue (!!!). He gallivants off to the Mediterranean in a stolen car with the babysitter and no direction other than away. It’s a story about love, lust, and the intrigue of a life left behind.

Like many of Godard’s films, the plot is centered around the folly of man, and what springs up in the shadow of his failings. Ferdinand the unhappy one is unhappy and listless with his situation, yet he needn’t be. So he goes off to make a drastic change, which makes his situation truly miserable instead of what he perceived to be a dull, meaningless existence. It’s a dynamic that seems especially meaningful in this day and age of ennui and existential boredom many find themselves in without a name to put on their pain.

Also like many Godard films, we have the expression of his artistic influences ever-present to call on as references. We see that in 1965, he was very into the abstract style. Much of this film feels like a professional student film, brimming with new ideas, new ways to express thoughts, sounds, and images. You would never think that a man already in his 20s would be so incredibly organic with his raw creativity, but here he is thinking like he was a kid again. He’s absolutely wonderful in this film; if you want to see Godard at his least guarded and organized, rent this tonight.

The cast is also amazing. Jean-Paul Belmondo is Ferdinand (or the eponymous Pierrot), and he lends something of a nervous genius/idiocy to the role that makes it entirely his. And Anna Karina (Godard’s then-wife) dazzles as the babysitter Marianne. She plays a character who is much deeper than she lets on, and there is a lot of casual lying and cool-headed deceit going into that which shows off her chops. The two have an undeniable chemistry that is all the more tragic as the events unfold. One of my favorite pieces of dialog occurs when the two are on the lamb, and Ferdinand mutters, in an offhanded way, “I wonder what’s keeping the cops. We should be in jail by now,” to which the wistful Marianne replies, “They’re smart; they let people destroy themselves…”

It’s not a film for everyone. It might not be a film for anyone except Godard. But it’s a film for me, at least how I found it. It’s funny, it’s incredibly depressing, it’s thoughtful, it’s beguiling. The master auteur of the Nouvelle Vague works in mysterious ways, but they’re always rewarding for the discerning fan of international cinema. I’ll always be up for even the worst Godard film over the best Scorcese film, or the best Eastwood film, because the Godard film will always, ALWAYS try to innovate. And Pierrot Le Fou is a non-stop innovation, a flourish by an artist in his prime. I love it, and I think you will too. I give Pierrot Le Fou 10 Le Fous out of 10. My highest recommendation!

Tomorrow we spin the clock back forward and try to get more current with Richard Gere’s The Hoax! See you then!!!

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