Velazquez, past the age of fifty, no longer painted specific objects. He drifted around things like the air, like twilight, catching unawares in the shimmering shadows the nuances of color that he transformed into the invisible core of his silent symphony. Henceforth, he captured only those mysterious interpenetrations that united shape and tone by means of a secret but unceasing progression that no convulsion or cataclysm could interrupt or impede. … A longer version of this quote introduces Pierrot Le Fou and with it director Jean-Luc Godard announces his intention for the film about to be seen. As he did in Contempt two years earlier, Godard’s announcement marks his plans for now and forever. The voice-over is from one of the protagonists, Ferdinand (Jean-Paul Belmondo). The quote is heard after another unconventional, mathematic yet beautiful credit sequence — another of Godard’s declarations; he is making a change to his style, narrative focus (or lack thereof) and form. Critics break Godard’s filmography into four phases. Pierrot Le Fou marks the first film that begins his shift from his cinematic films of the 1960’s to the political films of the late 1960’s to mid-1970’s. One artist quoting another artist about a change in art; how artistic, how Godard. Plot Pierrot Le Fou’s plot uses the couple on the run plot — later Americanized by Godard fanboys in the films Bonnie & Clyde and Badlands. Ferdinand eschews his marriage and takes up with babysitter Marianne (Anna Karina), who was also his former lover. Crime, passion, philosophy, musicals, politics, and boredom ensue as the pair go about on their adventures. The protagonists break the fourth wall five times in the film. For example, in the scene filmed from behind our couple where Ferdinand states “All she thinks about is fun,” Marianne returns with “Who are you talking to?” and Ferdinand points to us: “The audience”. As with most Godard films plot becomes secondary to form, feeling, politics, and philosophy. Godard Jean Luc Godard delved into films after first being a film critic for a short-lived film journal Gazette du cinéma and the well-known Cahiers du cinema. Godard has been quoted as saying the best way to critique a film is to make one of your own, and he was a man of his word, producing one to three films each year for the next couple of decades. An important theme for Godard is civilization in decline. He felt the 20th century’s decline is similar to the decline of the Roman Empire and that we are witnessing a similar deterioration. In Pierrot Le Fou, Godardshows a car accident and a single piece of a raised abandoned/uncompleted highway. The accident scene is similar to the one Godard will create in 1967’s Weekend, an apocalyptic world where the apocalypse has yet to occur, but mankind is already devolving. Weekend may have been Godard’s greatest representation of the dissolution of society, but in Pierrot Le Fou the seeds of decline have already begun to germinate. Importance Godard’s films more than any other director feel like jazz albums unfolding on-screen. The same could be said of many French New Wave films, but Godard always seemed the most in tune with Miles Davis. As Tom Cruise’s Vincent character says in Michael Mann’s “Collateral”: “…he’s off the melody, behind the notes. Outside what’s expected.” Godard’s films move like jazz providing a soundtrack to Pierrot Le Fou’s lovers/gangsters on the run story. With Pierrot Le Fou Godard comes full circle to his first film, Breathless. This time instead of driving towards and ending in France’s capital, Paris, we travel from Paris to the Mediterranean. Many directors have a film that is their most personal; for Godard, it is Pierrot Le Fou. Ferdinand is like Godard, a man aspiring to words, solace, and intellect but not quite sure how to achieve it. The relationship of Anna’s character to Ferdinand follows the rise and fall of Anna Karina and Jean-Luc Godard’s romance as well. Godard and Karina had announced their divorce before shooting Alphaville, the film prior to Pierrot Le Fou and released in the same year, 1965. The Criterion disc Pierrot Le Fou was filmed in Techniscope, and the transfer is from the original camera negative. The Criterion edition features with the famous early party scene with director Sam Fuller tinted green. The Criterion edition transfer was approved by its cinematographer, Raoul Coutard, whereas the Studio Canal release from the United Kingdom was not. Sadly, the Criterion Collection blu-ray and DVD are both currently out of print. The film was an early blu-ray release for Criterion which may be surprising with some of his earlier films more accessible to audiences. Pierrot Le Fou features some strong uses of primary colors that may have influenced Criterion’s decision to use the film to show-off the new high definition format. The extra features on the Criterion Edition are especially geared towards Anna Karina with an interview with the actress and “Godard, l’amour, la poesie, a 50 minute documentary by Luc Lagier, about director Jean-Luc Godard and his life and films with Karina.” Final thoughts Pierrot Le Fou feels like a transitional film for Godard. Many filmmakers have one film that marks a transition in their filmmaking style, but how many directors announce this at the beginning of their film as Godard does here. Yet it’s still a spontaneous work with the dialogue being written daily. Pierrot Le Fou is not my favorite Godard film and probably not the best entry point into Godard’s filmography. Films like Breathless, Vivre Sa Vie, Contempt, and Band of Outsiders may be better starting points; however, Pierrot Le Fou is Godard’s richest film and rewards subsequent views. Pay attention, revisit, and reconsider, and you may find Godard’s deconstruction of his own work his most rewarding. See larger image Pierrot le fou (The Criterion Collection) New From: $199.98 USD In Stock Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related 3 Responses Books_Not_Wooks May 27, 2014 “Life may be sad, but it’s always beautiful” This film more than any of the others that I’ve seen illustrates why I will (likely) never fully embrace the work of Godard, but constantly consume and revisit it anyway. I can’t help but get the feeling while watching ‘Pierrot’ that Godard was intent on creating some kind of amorphous, dream-like anti-narrative. The result is a film that is at times frustrating, but also wildly unpredictable (in a good way) and rich with moments and images that are just masterful. Thanks for posting this, Mark. Log in to Reply Mark Hurne June 1, 2014 Thank you for reading and commenting, Books_Not_Wooks. I usually find Godard’s films richer with each viewing. Log in to Reply davehearn May 29, 2014 This was beautiful instruction. So looking forward to your next column! Log in to Reply Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.