Exactly one year ago, I watched for the first time, Jean-Luc Godard’s Pierrot le Fou. As a firm and proud addict of Godard’s classic Breathless, I was not planning on anything topping that magnificently screwed-up romance, and to be frank, it didn’t initially. It took around a month for the movie to finally click with me as I intrinsically began to revisit clip after clip and scan possibility after possibility of every hidden motif that was staring at me in plain sight until I came to the decision that this multi-genre parody of a motion picture was, indeed, my personal favorite of Godard’s filmography thus far.
There’s a scene in Pierrot le Fou where the movie literally interviews acting extras that are self aware that they’re about to perform in a gratuitous studio movie excessed with clearly staged action spectacles, a needless amount of simplified violence, casually sung musical numbers (as if it’s all disingenuous bulls***), naive reenactments of real life affairs, insensitively portrayed antagonists, and preposterous love arcs; this is a mock-up used to expose the common audience’s hunger in having every clockwork trope all at once, cosseting a sybaritic dream that can never be accomplished. The romanticization of 1960s Hollywood cinema has become standardized pornography in Godard’s eyes, but unlike erotic superfluity, he knows audiences will indulge in it as if its something to be proud of.
So, certainly, Pierrot le Fou is pretty outspoken about what it wants to communicate to its audience. Yet, in consideration of matters like how piercingly colorful or consistently funny this movie can be, it’s quite explicit that Godard isn’t just ramming you through some pseudo-intellectual blabber on the stupidity of American cinema; he’s collaborating it all with the presentation skills that have always made his movie unusually enjoyable. This is an illustrious looking satire that functions to its best of abilities through nimble-minded dialogue (with sprinkles of poignancy and poetic beauty), committed performances, a comedically edited score, an amazing eye for visuals/locations, and a mature understanding of what it is as a whole in matters of commentary and entertainment—AKA, knowing of its prideful self awareness.
And still, Pierrot Le Fou remains to possess one of cinema’s greatest (and probably funniest) endings of all-time.
“I’m an idiot! S***! S***!”
Sheesh, if this movie isn’t the very definition of a piece WAY ahead of its time, then I don’t know what is!
Verdict Change: A- —> A
The French New Wave (Ranked List)
“Pierrot le Fou” is now available to stream on The Criterion Channel.