PIERROT LE FOU
DIRECTOR: JEAN LUC GODARD
CINEMATOGRAPHY: RAOUL COUTARD
MUSIC: ANTOINE DUHAMEL
With Jean Paul Belmondo as Fernidand and Anna Karina as Marianne
Jean Luc Godard is not one of the easiest film makers to discuss
Why you might ask ... the simple answer is that he doesn't make films ... at least in the way that you and I are used to seeing them. Films that have a story, films that have an event that is a climax for us to remember, and a cross over of a multitude of cinematography shots that have become a "standard" in most film making and schools these days. This is the main characteristic of film making from the beginning. One can sit here and discuss some of the thoughts, ideas and details that made up the "great directors", but it is nearly impossible to do the same thing with Jean Luc Godard.
One look at Bunuel, and you can immediately see something and make notes. One look at Bergman, and you do the same thing. One look at Fellini and you get the same thing. Or on the film scene a few years later, it's easy to identify a Spike Lee, just as easy as it is to identify a Mike Leigh ... but how does one identify a Jean Luc Godard?
It's best not to!
It's best to come and see any of his films and simply "let it go" and enjoy something else ... there is no telling what it will be ... but it will be remembered for its many nuances and events and happenings, however crazy and silly they may appear. And Pierrot Le Fou is no different than any of his previous films, in this sense and has many of the same moments that can be seen in the other films, the camera trying to keep up with the actors, and the actors trying to keep up with the space and the ... for the most part there is no script ... until, you find one of Jean Luc's favorite things to do ... to read from a book or two, passages that to him can't even be filmed that etch themselves into the memory of the actors, as a part of their thoughts and events. Sometimes, it is weird and difficult to deal with. Sometimes it has a meaning. Sometimes it comes out of the blue and just when you would think that something would take place between the actors like some kind of action, instead you get a philosophical something or other, and things continue as if ... nothing happened. . And many a reviewer loves Jean Luc Godard for this and usually try to make an intellectual connection between what is being read/discussed and the film itself. And, of course, it doesn't help that the director himself is quite a philosopher and was a film critic, and it is almost too easy to say that unlike many other film critics that only see films, he is also a well read man that appreciates some really well written passages of literature, and finds a way to add them to his films ... you might say that this is a compendium of everything he likes and loves. But is it a part of the film? ... not always, and the discussions on this are amazing and Jean Luc is laughing about it.
But, on the other side of the coin is the oddest thing. A lot of his work is "interactive" and not totally scripted, or at least some vague idea is created and pen'd the night before, and the actors, usually are free to explore the rest. It's almost hard to believe, or expect, a single film by this man where each and every line is scripted and memorized ... but if there is one thing that you will find here is that there are some actors that like the freedom, and they do really well. It's almost a wonder, and totally fascinating to watch an actor go through the work, like Anna Karina does, and Jean Paul Belmondo does, in this film and never feel like you are hitting an acting catharsis, where the actors feel stuck ... they ran out of lines, and Jean Luc has the perfect place and setting for that, and in the end, one rarely sees an actor gasp for detail, as he/she can do something on the physical side and turn the scene into much more than it was imagined ... something that is hard to plan when it is all scripted and a director is trying to perpetrate a reality into the actors faces, bodies and mind. And we are supposed to understand that and it is also supposed to make sense of the film in the long run -- well. at least that is the old film making theory!
Jean Luc Godard, is not about a single film convention and it is important to remember it right away. For the general American audience this is very difficult as there are continuous shots and sometimes the actors come and go, and that is something that Hollywood can't do ... and you still hear them, and the scene continues as if nothing had happened ... and it becomes a part of what the actors do on the specific stage they are on ... all of a sudden there is "detail" to the character that is not "prescribed" and "described" with scenes and dialogue details ... which we are used to seeing time and again, as some sort of hint that carries the story further.
There is no story in this film, per se, unless you want to take something like Ferdinand and Marianne meet and take off together. And they do so in a free style that is basically anti social and on their own terms. It was, in a way, very much like the hippie days, but you didn't have two hippies ... you had an idealistic relationship of sorts ... she is an extrovert and he is an introvert, and spends the better part of the film writing in his diary and we even get to see a little directorial license here when he changes a word or letter, and the film changes courses. If there is a story, where is it? If there are lovers, where are they? Come to think of it, I don't even remember a single romantic kiss! And that, in the end is probably also a commentary on a lot of film ... and their stories.
It is difficult to sit through a Jean Luc Godard film these days, specially in this era ... unlike many of them Pierrot Le Fou does not look out dated and seem out of touch a bit ... there is a certain timeliness in this film that stands out even today (2009) that I don't think that could be made today ... maybe it is the calmness of the camera and its non-intrusive style that helps the film. It's very vivid and clear colors and playfulness with the colors, is looking quite fresh and different. One wonders why some scenes have a color and others don't, and later Bernardo Bertolucci was going to extend the idea of colors into the camera lenses for whole episodes, not just a scene that comes off as a lead-in to the next part of the story, or as I sometimes like to say ... the next day of shooting in the film! Each of these moments tends to add to the film and in the end one sits with ... and wonders ... and then tries to add the literary side with the quotes, and try to make some kind of intelligent notion and understanding of what a Jean Luc Godard film is all about ... and I'm of the opinion that sometimes there is none to be found ... just as much as there is something to be found that might relate to that specific moment in time, but it will not interfere with the rest of the film, and its continuation ... it's like a moment in a life, and it passes us by, and we might or might not remember it, and that is the kind of attitude that is found in these films.
In Jean Luc Godard's own words, this film was done almost entirely without a script, although Anna Karina in an interview says that there were rushes that were written the night before that they had to work on some and then use for the next sequence of shooting. In the end, the funniest thing is .... you get the impression that it doesn't matter in the grand scheme of things, since that "scheme" is an idea in and of itself anyway ... and this is the toughest thing to come to grips with when seeing Pierrot Le Fou and almost any of Jean Luc Godard's films. Anna Karina also states that Jean Luc had wanted her to sing in the film (they were married at the time) since she sang all the time, and this is probably the only thing that sounds strange .. hearing a piano in the background, but it's interesting that it seems like she can hold a tune even if the piano was not there, and while it does not add anything to the story itself, it does show the playful and extrovert side of Marianne and how she expresses it which is totally different than Ferdinand's way through out most of the film. Makes one wonder if this is the way their personal relationship really went ...
I am of the opinion that the end, was done, for ... the sake of a film needing an end. Without the ending, however, this would have probably become a large symbol for hippiedom, without the drugs ... but the sociopolitical nature of Jean Luc Godard's ways, sometimes find their way through, and in this case, Ferdinand doesn't want to lose Marianne, even though it seems pretty obvious all through it that she is quite independent of spirit, and that Ferdinand is not willing, or capable, of handling it very well. But that hardly adds to the "story" or its "passing through" life day in and out, where boredom and excitement is the difference between a good day or bad day.
It is not my favorite Jean Luc Godard film, like many others, it tends to slow down some and sometimes trick us ... but I really think that this is so because we are all so caught up in "action" and "blockbuster" type of films, that seeing something different, or finding an appreciation on these kinds of films, is something that is much harder than the spoon fed films out there.
If you like adventurous film making, and completely different, and specially films that break and challenge so many of the normal film conventions that we are used to (the shot-cross-shot during conversations being the most visible), then Jean Luc Godard will be fine for you ... even some 40 years after his best films were made ...
Don't short change your chance to see something different. Few films out there live like these do, and in the end, an appreciation comes alive ... or as the French like to say, Vive La Difference!
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