Pierrot le Fou

Pierrot le Fou ★★★★

Another Godard, another pleasantly inviting, off-kilter trek with charismatic outlaws. Jumping from Breathless to Pierrot le Fou couldn't have been a more serendipitous selection, as their similarities are shocking. Not just in star Jean-Paul Belmondo, nor in the tale of two lovers on the wrong side of the law, but in the vibe and content - a strike against society and its inane, mundane commercialism. Here, instead of the law, Godard has Belmondo escaping from a drab life full of corporate sponsorship, empty philosophers, and family just as sick as he is, but too apathetic to change. Both Michel and Ferdinand craft fantasy personas for themselves; Michel a gangster, Ferdinand a poet. And both are in way over their heads; although here, Ferdinand is the grounded one of the two larcenous lovebirds.

While the jump-cuts, poetic voice-overs, and fourth-wall-breaking moments remain, it is obvious in the eight pictures between the two that Godard has matured in his technique and is still hungry to break new ground. The film looks fantastic, full of bright colors, neon lights, and the beautiful scenery of the French Riviera. It's also pleasing to the ear; adding elements of a musical shouldn't work, but here they are dealt with very naturally and only waver at the edge of feeling out of place rather than being full-on head-scratching. The plot, while getting a little goofy occasionally, is (for the most part) a good kind of goofy - a tension lightener without using out-and-out jokes; almost Lynchian in surreality at one end of the spectrum and good-natured camp at the other. For example, one of the gunrunners Ferdinand/Pierrot and Marianne run into is extremely short, and having him carry around large rifles is not so much hilarious as it is absurd. This, along with the aforementioned musical elements and breaking of the fourth wall all land Pierrot le Fou firmly in a farcical territory, much more so than Breathless. Godard doesn't come out and say it (although he does lampshade it once, if memory serves), but this is a film that knows it's a film, and he has fun playing with that concept.

Yes, my slight issues with Breathless remain - Godard sermonizes his artistic philosophy through his characters a few too often or not subtly enough - and some of the campier aspects that I found laughable were probably not meant to be laughed at, but Pierrot le Fou makes two Godards down without a bad taste in my mouth. The humor here makes the perhaps stretched-too-far plot more than bearable, and the visuals retain that wonderful sense of anarchy and unpredictability that Breathless had, making each scene visually stimulating. I haven't loved either quite enough to start wearing Godard jerseys yet, but his appeal is obvious, his techniques inventive, and damned if he can't shoot a flick that looks good.

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