‘Pierrot le fou’
Director: Jean-Luc Godard
Stars: Jean-Paul Belmondo, Anna Karina
5 (out of 5) Globes
Jean-Luc Godard doesn’t get "emotional." His films have always been angry — usually at politics, sometimes at Steven Spielberg, sometimes, these days, at Israel. But he doesn’t tend to air his own dirty laundry. The closest he’s ever come to grouching about his love life was 1965’s “Pierrot le fou,” his best work, which is now, happily, in theaters once again. It tells the story of a doomed romance, between Jean-Paul Belmondo’s sadsack Ferdinand and Anna Karina’s spunky Marianne. At the time, Godard was going through his own collapsing relationship — with Karina. In the film Ferdinand kills Marianne, then himself; in real life Godard and Karina simply finalized their divorce.
Red hot anguish burns through “Pierrot le fou,” though in typical Godard fashion, he keeps the viewer at arm’s length. Part romance, part road trip movie, it kicks off when Ferdinand, an unemployed and unhappy family man, runs off with Marianne, the babysitter. Cruising through the sunny south of France, they create mischief and form their own little bubble, protecting themselves from the outside world. For a stretch they drop anchor on an island. That’s when they realize they’re doomed. At one point Ferdinand busies himself with writing while Marianne bops about, loudly repeating “I’m so bored,” to his annoyance and indifference. The gossip hound can easily read scenes like this as transcripts of real-life fights between the film's director and leading lady, with Belmondo, the poor guy stuck sandwiched between a collapsing couple, forced to play Godard to Karina-as-Karina.
Yet it’s also a brightly colored cartoon, filled with japes and jags and a busy, intoxicating style. Every character Ferdinand and Marianne meet is a broad caricature, from the bumbling gas station attendants in the slapstick theft scene, to the brokenhearted guy who stops the movie dead as it’s heading into its action-packed climax to sing a ridiculous story of heartbreak.