Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Pierrot le Fou

Based on the novel Obsession by Lionel White, Pierrot le Fou (Pierrot the Madman) is the story of a married bourgeoisie who goes on a road trip with his babysitter/former lover as they’re being chased by OAS agents. Written for the screen and directed by Jean-Luc Godard, the film is a genre-bender that blends the road movies with commentary on politics and consumerism as it’s told in a humorist fashion. Starring Jean-Paul Belmondo and Anna Karina. Pierrot le Fou is a whimsical yet exhilarating film from Jean-Luc Godard.

The film plays into a man who is married to a bourgeoisie woman as he had just been fired from his job working for TV as he copes with his dreary life until he meets the new babysitter who used to be a former lover as the two go on the road through France. It’s a film that revolves around a man named Ferdinand “Pierrot” Griffon (Jean-Paul Belmondo) who faces a crisis in his life as he’s bored and unhappy in everything until he sees that his former lover Marianne Renoir (Anna Karina) is the new babysitter. Upon returning home early from a party and driving her home, their love is renewed where he learns that Marianne is part of a rebellious faction as she is being chased by OAS agents. Pierrot would join her as they would hide and do all sorts of things until Marianne becomes bored herself where she would rejoin the faction with Pierrot following her.

Jean-Luc Godard’s screenplay does start off with a very simple plot but once it has Pierrot and Marianne away from the world of crime and at the South of France near the Mediterranean. The film becomes a mish-mash of genres where the two are trying to survive without money and weapons while they ponder their own life and what to do next. The film does raise some existential questions while Pierrot and Marianne would do things to survive where they would entertain American tourists for money or do all sorts of things. By the time the film goes into its third act where Marianne is forced to go back to being part of this rebellious regime. The relationship between her and Pierrot starts to falter where the latter questions everything that is going on and wonders if Marianne truly loves him.

Godard’s direction is definitely vibrant not just for its look and setting but also in the energy that he brings into the story. Not only for some of the intimacy he creates as well as finding ways to breaking the fourth wall at times. It also plays up this sense of whimsy where there’s few moments where the two characters would sing and dance or do something outrageous in their criminal exploits or something else. While Godard would use a lot of unique wide shots for many of the scenes set in the South of France, it his usage of long takes for much of the action to play out that is really interesting where it has a naturalistic tone to what is happening. Godard’s usage of close-ups and medium shots would play into some of the film’s whimsical tone as well as some of the dramatic elements in the third act where there are these eerie moments of violence. It plays into not just some of the political sensibilities of what is happening during the 1960s but also some of its fallacies where Pierrot is trying to get Marianne to not give in towards violence and just embrace the idea of love. Overall, Godard creates a thrilling yet entertaining film about two lovers going on an adventure in the South of France.

Cinematographer Raoul Coutard does brilliant work with the film‘s very colorful cinematography as it plays up many of the lush and naturalistic qualities in many of the locations along with some inspired usage of lights for some of the film‘s interior scenes. Editor Francoise Collin does amazing work with the editing with its playful usage of jump-cuts and other stylish cuts to play into the film‘s humoristic approach as well as some of its dramatic and intense moments. Production designer Pierre Guffroy does nice work with some of the set design for the scenes in the car at night as well as some of the interior of the places the characters go to. The sound work of Antoine Bonfanti and Rene Levert is terrific for the way sound is captured in many of the film‘s different locations as well as some sound effects to play for some of its humor and drama. The film’s music by Antoine Duhamel is fantastic for its sumptuous score that ranges from playful to somber themes with its string arrangements to play into many of the film’s emotional moments.

The film’s excellent cast includes appearances from Jean-Pierre Leaud as a man at a movie theater, filmmaker Samuel Fuller as himself at a party Pierrot goes to early in the film, Roger Dutoit and Hans Meyers as a couple of gangsters chasing Pierrot and Marianne, Laszlo Szabo as a political exile, Jimmy Kabouri as a dwarf working with Marianne in the faction, Graziella Galvani as Pierrot’s wife, and Dirk Sanders as Marianne’s fellow rebel associate Fred who is part of this rebellious regime that wants to cause trouble.

Finally, there’s the incredible performances from Anna Karina and Jean-Paul Belmondo in their respective roles as Marianne and Pierrot. Karina brings this energy to her performance as Marianne that is so full of whimsy but also an air of danger that is mixed in with an innocence as she often carries a little doggie toy with her. Belmondo is a bit more reserved as Pierrot as he often demands to be called Ferdinand while manages to bring in some comical moments into his performance. Karina and Belmondo together are fun to watch as they both bring in the best in each other as this film represents the two at their best.

Pierrot le Fou is a spectacular film from Jean-Luc Godard that features great performances from Jean-Paul Belmondo and Anna Karina. The film isn’t just one of Godard’s more wild and complex films but also one of his most entertaining. Especially as it refuses to define itself as anything which only adds the exuberant tone of the film. In the end, Pierrot le Fou is a phenomenal film from Jean-Luc Godard.

Jean-Luc Godard Films: All the Boys Are Called Patrick - Charlotte et son Jules - Breathless - The Little Soldier - A Woman is a Woman - Vivre sa Vie - The Carabineers - Contempt - Band of Outsiders - A Married Woman - Alphaville - Masculin Feminin - Made in U.S.A. - Two or Three Things I Know About Her - La Chinoise - Weekend - One Plus One (Sympathy for the Devil) - (Joy of Learning) - (British Sounds) - Tout va Bien - (Letter to Jane) - (One A.M.) - (Number Two) - (Here and Elsewhere) - (Every Man for Himself) - (Passion) - (First Name: Carmen) - Hail, Mary - (Soft and Hard) - (Detective) - (King Lear (1987 film)) - (Keep Your Right Up) - (Nouvelle Vague) - (Allemagne 90 neuf zero) - (JLG/JLG - Self-Portrait in December) - For Ever Mozart - (Historie(s) de Cinema) - (In Praise of Love) - (Notre musique) - (Film Socialisme) - (Adieu au Language) - (The Image Book)

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