Pierrot le Fou

Pierrot le Fou ★★★★★

Not Another 30 Day Film Challenge: Day Fourteen, An Art House Film.

Why do you look so sad? Because you speak to me in words and I look at you with feelings.

Jean-Luc Godard is my personal favorite and one of the most misunderstood French directors of all time. A lot of his films seem to get criminally underrated by the public, but that may be due to the fact that his artistic, avant garde filming style can be a turn-off to many people. Granted, I don't care for some of his later work, but he has seemed to be beginning to redeem and resurrect himself with the most excellent Goodbye to Language 3D. Despite my lauding praise for that film, and its gorgeous, artistic use of 3D technology, I still think this is the greatest film he has ever made, and it will be hard for me to find a film of his I love more. The only other film of his that comes close is Breathless, another amazingly beautiful film of his.

To be honest, Godard is an acquired taste. The first film of his I ever saw was Alphaville, and I was so turned off that I couldn't finish it. Surely this couldn't have been the great herald of the French New Wave whom I had heard so much about. What was this garbage I was watching? It was about nothing, and it was so boring! How can so many people love such a tasteless director? Oh, how wrong I was at the time. Granted, I haven't tried going back to Alphaville since then (it's criminally difficult to find the Criterion edition) so I haven't had the opportunity to retry watching it with a more open mind. But the first time I saw Made in U.S.A., I fell completely in love. Godard's colorful, gorgeous tribute to American mysteries, often called a "Looney Tunes rendition of The Big Sleep gone New Wave," captivated me from its opening frames all the way to its twisted, suspense-filled conclusion. Pierrot le Fou somehow managed to captivate me even more, somehow surpassing the colorful palette that is ever-present in Made in U.S.A. and has a beautiful crime story underlying the avant garde feel.

The story concerns an unhappily married man named Ferdinand Griffon (French superstar Jean-Paul Belmondo). Ferdinand has just been fired from his job at a TV broadcasting company, and is invited to a party with some friends. After realizing that the "friends" at the party knew how to talk of nothing but shallow, meaningless discussions, Ferdinand decides to abscond from his wife and children with an ex-girlfriend named Marianne (Anna Karina). Unfortunately, as they arrive at Marianne's apartment, they discover a dead body, and several gangsters on their tail. They decide to run away and go on a crime spree, living life on the run from the syndicate, stealing to survive. Throughout their journey, "Pierrot" (the nickname that Marianne has given to Ferdinand) reflects on his life decisions, and the couple's relationship soon becomes more and more strained, leading up to a heartbreakingly dramatic and shocking conclusion.

I loved that Godard chose to present moral and life questions through an artistically presented crime story such as this one. The combination of the art house and crime genres really are coherent in this film, and make it much more beautiful than it ever would have been without Godard's masterful direction. Jean-Paul Belmondo and Anna Karina are the perfect duo in this film, and their "Bonnie and Clyde" characters are two of the most memorable in Godard's entire filmography. The editing and cinematography are marvelous to witness, and it really shows the work of a true auteur. I've yet to go through most of Godard's filmography, but I have been truly impressed by most of what I have seen so far. His films really are an acquired taste, and won't be for everyone. However, if you are into the films of Godard, and haven't seen Pierrot le Fou, I highly recommend it. It's probably his best film, and even if it isn't, it is my personal favorite. A really moving and beautiful crime story, and a dramatic tale of unrequited love with a truly artistic touch by a master at work.

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