Like BAND OF OUTSIDERS before it and the incomprehensible MADE IN USA afterward, Jean-Luc Godard's PIERROT LE FOU is based on a pulp detective novel, providing the filmmaker with a simple story on which to hang his personal, artistic and philosophical beliefs.
Ferdinand Griffon (Jean-Paul Belmondo) leaves behind his Parisian wife and child during a party and takes off on an adventure with Marianne Renoir (Anna Karina), the family baby-sitter with whom he had an affair five years earlier. The following morning a man is found in Marianne's apartment with
scissors sticking out of his throat. They set out for the Riviera (heading south, as the characters in Godard's previous film, ALPHAVILLE, hoped to do) in the hope of locating Marianne's gunrunner brother. Ferdinand spends his time writing a journal, but Marianne grows increasingly impatient and
gets herself involved once more in gangster activities. Again the result is a mobster--a dwarf--being found with scissors in his throat.
The pair is separated when Ferdinand is kidnapped and tortured by gangsters who are interested in finding Marianne. Ferdinand eventually meets up with her and learns that her brother is really her lover. A double cross follows, and Ferdinand ends up shooting them both. Having had enough of the
adventure, Ferdinand phones his wife in Paris but cannot get through to her. He goes to the top of a hill, paints his face blue, ties red and yellow sticks of dynamite to his head, and lights the fuse.
PIERROT LE FOU was Godard's tenth film in six years (not including four sketches that he contributed to compilation films) and perhaps the first to contain all the elements that have been called "Godardian." He combined everything that came before--the romanticism of BREATHLESS, the inner
monologue externalized in LE PETIT SOLDAT, the structural divison of MY LIFE TO LIVE, and the epic odyssey of CONTEMPT--with the linguistic diary format that would overpower some of his later films.
Working from the outline provided by Lionel White's novel Obsession, Godard was able to proceed without a script and create what he called "a completely spontaneous film." Spontaneous or not, PIERROT LE FOU is arguably one of the few Godard pictures to have the desired balance of romance,
adventure, violence, and humor on one side, and philosophy, literary and cinematic allusion, and Brechtian distancing on the other.
The film was lensed quickly in May, June, and July 1965 and then edited even more rapidly for a showing at the Venice Film Festival at the end of August. Despite the mixed reaction that inevitably accompanies a new Godard film, it was soon elevated to the position of runner-up in the prestigious
Sight and Sound poll of 1972.
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- Rating: NR
- Review: Like BAND OF OUTSIDERS before it and the incomprehensible MADE IN USA afterward, Jean-Luc Godard's PIERROT LE FOU is based on a pulp detective novel, providing the filmmaker with a simple story on which to hang his personal, artistic and philosophical beli… (more)