With so much attention being given to independent and alternative cinema these days (most alt .films are horribly conventional affairs dressed up with goatees), it’s refreshing to remember that there actually was a time when cinema was being pushed into fascinating and ground-breaking areas. And when it was, no one rewrote the rules as unflinchingly and daringly as Jean Luc Godard.
Godard’s 1965 Pierrot Le Fou is one of the key works is his astounding and prolific filmography. Based loosely on Lionel White’s novel Obsession, Pierrot Le Fou is about a bored television exec (Jean-Paul Belmondo) who leaves his wife and children for his 20-something babysitter (Godard’s then wife Anna Karina). The pair become lovers on the run after she kills a man and gets involved with money stolen form a gun running operation. In this case, however, the plot is secondary. Godard instead presents a free-from improvisation bursting at the seams with bits of literature and intellectual musings, as if the story were simply a backdrop for a personal essay on art, life and culture. It’s a stunningly colorful film (the widescreen photography is by D.P. Raoul Coutard) with a red, white and blue motif that seems to pervade almost all his color films. Godard’s visionary editing style is still being imitated by lesser filmmakers.
This is a completely unpredictable film, from a party where the the guests quote advertisements and the late, great Sam Fuller gives his thoughts on film ( film is like a battleground…) to the (literally) explosive ending. In between we see the duo get bored, tell stories, write poetry, and hook up with Karina’s brother, a man who would best be described as a cross between a terrorist and choreographer. It’s a completely original work, and points the way to even more extreme examples of Godard’s unique genius: 1966’s Two Or Three Things I Know About Her and 1967’s Weekend, a hallucinatory social satire that may very well be the greatest anti-yuppie film of all time.