With the last Jean-Luc Godard film that I have watched (which is "Weekend") tracing back about 3 years ago, that of which I also vividly remember of not liking that much, it's genuinely reinvigorating to watch some of his earlier, more beloved works that are, undoubtedly, the patented heart and soul of the French New Wave. In this instance, it is "Pierrot le Fou", a masterful adventure film about love, self-discovery and, ultimately, self-destruction. But with Godard on the helm, nothing is particularly absolute.
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.'