Blu-ray Review: Pierrot Le Fou | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Thursday, October 29th, 2020  

Pierrot Le Fou

Studio: The Criterion Collection

Oct 13, 2020 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


Jean Luc Godard’s legendary Pierrot Le Fou – one of the hallmark films of the French New Wave movement of the 1950s and 1960s – is the ultimate crime caper. After realizing his dissatisfaction with life, Ferdinand (Jean-Paul Belmondo) decides to abandon his wife and children and hit the road with their babysitter, Marianne (Anna Karina), with whom he has a prior relationship. From Marianne is where Ferdinand gets the nickname “Pierrot,” a name tied to a “sad clown.”

After a brief sojourn in Marianne’s apartment, where Ferdinand encounters a dead body on her mattress, he realizes that her current situation is a little more complicated than he realized. Suddenly, instead of hitting the road for pleasure, the two are running away from gangsters, the cops, and their past, with the Mediterranean Sea in the South of France as their destination.

The film’s first half is focused on comedic gags and little set pieces, and revolves more around the chemistry between the actors. Karina and Belmondo are able to sell the “young-and-in-love” premise with no difficulty whatsoever, leading to a thoroughly fun viewing experience. Once their initial euphoria of being “on the run” begins to fade away, the reality of their new and unstable life begins to set in.

The film’s second half is much more realistic and solemn. It is here when Karina’s and Belmondo’s individual performances become incredibly skillful and effective, conveying the bitterness and resentment between their characters while still exhibiting the remnants of love hidden deep inside their relationship. The tonal switch, while aggressive, is skillfully executed – attributed to both the film’s performances and its sharp script and direction.

Godard’s films are known for constantly rewriting the rules of cinema. Pierrot Le Fou is no exception. While the premise could be compared to a French version of Bonnie and Clyde, the crime aspect of Pierrot Le Fou is only a small part of the complete story. The film refuses to be held down by the constraints of a single genre. It blurs the lines between comedy, drama, action, and even musical with extraordinary ease. At times, it even feels like Godard is throwing random ideas on-screen and seeing what sticks. The film is filled with awkwardly cut music cues, random monologues on existentialism and consumerism, and rapid transitions from scene to scene. While these qualities can lead to confusing moments from time to time, the film is still incredibly engaging.

Criterion’s restoration of the film is picture-perfect, bringing the story alive through a newly sharpened and defined color palette. So much of the film’s story relies on the main character’s interactions with their surroundings, particularly as they weave their way through the seemingly endless vineyards and hills of the French countryside. The visuals are not only gorgeous, but are able to invoke strong feelings of comfort and calm, which is ironic given how the film itself is anything but those two things. The new release also includes plenty of bonus content – most notably a fifty minute documentary on both Godard’s work and his marriage with Karina from 1961-1967. Besides that, most of the special features are interviews, with excerpts from 1965 with Godard and Karina and a full-length interview in 2007 with Karina.

(www.criterion.com/films/149-pierrot-le-fou)




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