Monday, August 25, 2008

"Pierrot le Fou" (1965, Dir: Jean-Luc Godard)

Whew!

Gosh, this film is intense in the most surprising of ways. I'm angry at myself that I didn't look into the Godard oeuvre sooner, because now I'm going to have to see all his films!

I always find it interesting to see foreign films of the 1950s and 1960s and see how far ahead they were, thematically, than American films. Especially in the 60s, sex and violence in foreign films (especially mainland European films) were treated with a remarkable candor that today's American films are still too sheepish to try. I wonder if a film like "Pierrot le Fou" could have been made, and taken seriously, in the 2000s. I doubt it.

Godard shows a remarkable mastery of color, music and editing. The visual sense is amazing - the cuts are absurd but never superfluous. Here, Godard creates a world where surrealism feels entirely natural.

This is the only film I know of where the progression of the film is handed over completely to the characters. Marianne and Ferdinand know they are being watched - we, the audience, are their spying pursuers. They look at us and talk to us, and they are wary enough of our motives and trustworthiness that they will often change the story itself just to throw us off their trail. It is a revolutionary move by Godard, giving the audience complete insight but also keeping them shut out completely - and it would not have worked without his actors, Jean-Paul Belmondo and Anna Karina.

Belmondo provides a strangely affable presence with regards to his character - a man so tortured by the superficiality of the world that he feels he must flee it - figuratively speaking, he is trying to go to outer space without leaving the ground. Anna Karina's performance is a miracle of submission to role and direction - there is nothing to separate her from the character. It is an example of near-frightening immersion, made all the more impressive by the fact that her role is more an idea (of danger and possibility and opportunity) than a real woman.

If you haven't seen this yet, pick it up now! But make sure you watch it on Blu-Ray, I can't imagine seeing it any other way!

2 comments:

Dame James Henry said...

I've wanted to see this film for years after seeing some random image of Jean-Paul Belmondo with his face completely covered in blue paint. It was so strange and surreal that I just had to see this film. It wasn't available on DVD for the longest time until the recent Criterion edition and now, after your review, I'm excited all over to go see it. Now I just have to get my hands on a copy.

Mark said...

Godard has always fascinated me, yet I've had trouble getting my hands on anything more than Breathless.

That film sounds uber-interesting, so I'll have to pine for it :)