Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Essential Collection: Pierrot Le Fou

Pierrot Le Fou (Jean Luc Godard, 1965) [10]
Existing in a middle ground between his earlier genre deconstructions and the more experimental, radical works like Weekend, Pierrot Le Fou is my favorite Godard film. That Criterion has given the film a deluxe treatment have made it even better after not having seen it for many years. The one element I hear in critiques of this film is that it feels inconsequential and that may be perhaps I like it so much. This is the most pulp of all Godard films, starting with a standard noir storyline. Ferdinand (Jean-Paul Belmondo) is a dissatisfied writer who upon meeting an old acquittance with a sketch history (Anna Karina), embark on a road trip after an apparent murder. What is essentially a standard noir story is transformed into something bordering on pulp but becomes something. Frankly, the dialogue is ambiguous and obtuse, but the scenes and images that Godard crafts are so much more interesting that it hardly matters. There are moments in the film that foreshadow the more radical, non-narrative style that would appear in later Godard films, but here, they still have some attachment to a story, which I feel makes them work well. The musical interludes and the man on the dock are good examples. They on the surface appear somewhat random but the really dig down to an idea of complete devastation as Ferdinand's journey with Marianne has not come to what he thought. A lot has been made of Pierrot Le Fou being an extension of Godard's feelings at the time, that he had just divorced Karina and he had lost all interest in the base story that inspired the film. What I feel is more important is the idea of the destruction of the narrative form that the film contains. At least if not that, it reflects on a director searching in a new direction. But unlike the more strident tones of his more political work, Pierrot Le Fou succeeds because it allows itself to be somewhat frivolous. The vibrant look of the film, the most striking aspect of the film to me, gives the film the feel of the comic books that keep popping up. Unlike someone like Tarantino, who uses pulp and popular forms more for an all over style, Godard uses just enough to keep the heart of the film from being a bludgeon. Some critics may like the more genre-specific early films, some may like the more political ones, but for me, somewhere in the middle is Pierrot Le Fou. For me, this film is hard to beat when talking about my favorite twenty so film of all time.

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