Pierrot le Fou (Pierrot Goes Wild) (Crazy Pete) Reviews
note: i've never heard anyone refer to this as 'crazy pete' but if i did i would probably smack them.
Pierrot Le Fou is ideally approached with the idea that it's entirely structured from Godard's idiosyncracy; unlike, for example, Une Femme Mariée, which is more about the other, PLF seems like a canvas splattered wildly with his interests, values, obsessions. He makes a film in which the only rule is to have no rules, with no coherence other than a slight, feeble storyline and the objective of hand-making a cinematic Universe: improvisation, surrealism, just as well as gaps in the story and loose ends are all valid because cinema is a more liberating, boundless, ecstatic alternative to life.
Jean Paul Belmondo and Anna Karina are a bored family man and a free-spirited young woman. They fall in love, and together they run away from Paris and their boring, restrictive lives; in a way, they take a road trip to madness. During their journey all sorts of absurd, amusing, and cinematically breath-taking episodes take place. They (Ferdinand and Marianna) eventually seem to know that they have no place in society: nothing to go back to and nothing to look forward to, so they choose to lose their minds, enjoy the ride, and they'll worry about the rest when they worry about the rest. So, it seems to me that whereas the development of the story is definitely chaotic and feels (maybe was) barely scripted, Godard had a very clear idea of where his characters were going.
Aside from the content, the art direction is an important part of the Godard experience: beautiful cinematography, sharp angles and unusual framing, always with color -especially blue, red and white- as leit motiv. Put all these elements together, along with the script and that looming 'fate' theme of the story and you have something very close to poetry if it could be translated to film: at once violent, vibrant, and subtle.
Now I'll stop writing because the more you talk about Pierrot Le Fou the less you understand it...So much of this film is about feeling, identification, and just visual enjoyment. I don't know if it's my favorite Godard film but I think it's one of his best, and definitely one of those love-it-or-hate-it/ iconic works that will always be a reference point for innovation and brashness in filmmaking.
Starring the charismatic yet mischievous-looking Jean-Paul Belmondo and the enticingly energetic Anna Karina, the film, about two star-crossed, perennially on-the-run lovers, is packed with immense intellectual energy and colorful playfulness characteristic of the aforementioned film movement.
Although the film sure has a conventional story that's quite easy to follow, it's never the main priority. Instead, "Pierrot le Fou" is a film that follows the impulse not of its surface narrative but of the transgressive potentials the film medium has. In short, "Pierrot le Fou" is a half-comic, half-poetic intimation of cinema itself, and there's never a more perfect filmmaker to handle it than Godard himself.
Personally, the key to enjoy "Pierrot le Fou" more is not to be too conscious and reliant of the plot because if you'll be, the film has numerous elements that can surely and gravely deviate from its focus. One of them, of course, is the seemingly disjointed, pseudo-romantic yet nonetheless poetic utterances by Belmondo's titular character. Another is the film's inclusion of random, millisecond appearances of numerous neon signs, some of which read the words 'cinema' and 'life'.
These minute details, obviously, are nothing but sheer experimental frolic on Godard's part, which, admittedly, has nonetheless added an additional spark of uniqueness to the film's entirety.
"Film is like a battleground. There's love, hate, action, violence, death... in one word: emotions," said Samuel Fuller, who appeared in "Pierrot le Fou" as himself. In a way, this cameo by the said filmmaker is a deliberate embrace of irony on Godard's part, who, from what I think, believes that cinema is so much more than emotions. Sure, they (the emotions) may slightly further a storyline, motivate some characters and justify some scenes, but ultimately, what Godard is more concerned about is his audience's intellectual and subtly didactic journey through the heart and pulse of cinema itself. Or, to be more exact, 'his' own vision of cinema: a vision where anything goes, where obscure music and high-brow literature fit nicely in mundanely immature conversations and situations, and where blood and violence seem highly inconsequential. Hell, even highway accidents have never looked more picturesque and unearthly than in "Pierrot le Fou" (but then again, there's that epic tracking shot in "Weekend").
"It's not really a film, it's an attempt at cinema," Godard once said about "Pierrot le Fou". Well, if "Pierrot le Fou" is not, in its basic essence, a film, then perhaps Belmondo's Pierrot (oh sorry, his name is Ferdinand) and Karina's Marianne are not much characters themselves than they are mere devices for Godard to kick-start a necessary road trip and to make his ultimate goal, which is to explore the then-unchartered frontiers of postmodern cinema, as humanly and tangibly flawed as possible. And alas, he has pulled it off.
Indeed, "Pierrot le Fou" is a film that's worthy of many future revisits. For me, the film has definitely achieved what many art films haven't, and that is to be thematically dense and genuinely enjoyable at the same breath. Plus, amidst its pop-intellectual discourse about nothing and everything, it has also raised quite a compelling outlook on existence; that after all is said and done', 'we are just dead men on parole.'
"The film is like a battleground. Love, Hate, Action, Violence, and Death. In one word, Emotion." - Samuel Fuller
One of the last Godard films that had a fairly simple through-line, this arrived just on the verge of his challenging films of the latter part of his career, very few of which appeal to me all that much.
Worth a rental.