Pierrot Le Fou review
Watching a Godard film is like drinking a fine cup of wine, it needs to be swirled, smelled, and spit in order for the experience to be poignant, taking you out of your mundane life and placing you in a world that can only be compared to an anomalous daydream. However, even once it has been savored you still can’t quite put your finger on the flavors, and requires a second tasting. Because of this, Pierrot le Fou is difficult to explain because it is one of the few films that is much more than the plot itself; it is about the mise en scene as well. The plot can be best explained by the words of Samuel Fuller, an American director at the party Ferdinand attended at the beginning of the film. When Ferdinand asked him “What is cinema”, he replied with, “Film is like a battleground. There’s love, hate, action, violence, death…in one word: emotion.” The entire film is precisely a battleground for the emotions of the two main characters, Ferdinand and Marianne, as they battle trying to communicate with each other, Ferdinand with words and Marianne with feelings. Love is depicted when they lay together on the beach, their lives slowly slipping away before them. Hate is shown when Ferdinand finds Marianne on a mountain with an American, and impulsively kills both of them. Action occurs throughout the entire movie as Ferdinand and Marianne flee from the police Thelma & Louise style, leaving a trail of bodies behind. Violence occurs when Marianne kills one of the police officers with scissors, leaving blood spilling out of his neck and struggling to breathe. Finally, death occurs in multiple scenes, many of them peculiar.
The mise en scene of the film can be best described in the opening lines of Pierrot le Fou, narrated by Ferdinand himself, “Velasquez, past the age of 50, no longer painted specific objects. He drifted around things like the air, like Twilight, catching unawares in the shimmering shadows the nuance of color that he transformed into the invisible core of his silent symphony. Henceforth, he captured only those mysterious interpretations that united shape and tone by means of a secret by unceasing progression that no convulsion or cataclysm could interrupt or impede. Space reigns supreme”. Godard, like Velasquez, uses cinematography to capture the life in the movie, from the twinkling sea to the dying trees of the forest. Like most Godard films, the plot isn’t the central focus of the movie, but instead is everything else that surrounds it is used to tell the story. Color is his most pivotal tool, used in the party that took place at the beginning, depicting different interactions in a different color, from a scene with characters talking about cars and deodorant in red to a couple politely kissing in yellow. Then, in a burst of color, Ferdinand throws the cake and storms out of the party. The entire movie is a silent symphony, with Antoine Duhamel’s song “Ferdinand” playing when he is content, and “Pierrot”, the name Marianne insists on calling him, meaning “Madman”, when he is in a runaway chase. In one scene Ferdinand finds a guy sitting on a dock and says that he hears music that reminds him of his beautiful ex-wife, which only him and the audience can hear. Ferdinand responds that he can’t hear the music, and then the man asks Ferdinand if he is crazy, to which he responds “yes”. He then sails away, never to see the man again. The entire movie was a muted melody, a repetition of music that only the audience and the crazy man on the dock could hear. It is yet another barrier of communication that separates us from the characters, Ferdinand communicates in words, Marianne communicates in emotions, and the audience communicates in music.
Overall, I loved this movie and it really changed my views on cinema. For example, I think the best directors are the ones who use the tools given to them to make the most of the movie and don’t rely on the plot as much to tell the story. For example, Godard used color to get his point across that mindless conversation is like a tv ad, irrelevant to the movie that is life. I also liked how the movie wasn’t so much about Ferdinand and Marianne’s relationship as it was about communication, something that most people can relate to as people communicate in different ways. I think this movie will appeal to people who are fans of Godard or unconventional filmmakers because it an outstanding film full of love, hate, action, violence, death, and emotions.