Thursday, December 11, 2008

Pierrot le Fou

Pierrot le Fou is the story of, as Godard put it, “the last romantic couple.” The couple, Ferdinand and Marianne, after Marianne spends an evening babysitting Ferdinand’s children and is getting a ride home from him, decide to run away together. It becomes apparent that Marianne has some connection in a gun-running scheme involving her brother. When they find a dead body in her apartment, the two flee. What ensues is a stream of careless and often violent crimes of theft and even murder. The two eventually find themselves living on the shores of the Mediterranean, doing essentially nothing—Ferdinand reading his books and writing in his journal, Marianne complaining about his constant and complacent reading and writing. They put on little plays for tourists for money, commit little crimes, and are basically homeless. The love between the two seems palpable in the beginning, but soon decays, and a shift begins to occur. A divide between to two becomes apparent, and may have always existed (e.g. Marianne insists upon calling Ferdinand Pierrot throughout the film, much to his disgust). She eventually betrays him, returning to the gun-runners, and as a result Ferdinand straps dynamite to his head and lights a short fuse, which he vainly attempts to extinguish in the very last moments. The film ends with this almost glorified explosion.

Like most Godard films, Pierrot le Fou is fractured in plot (though not to the degree of his later films) intellectualized, and inventive. Also, as with most Godard films, it is an attack—on consumerism and materialism, on war and American imperialism, and on idealisms of love and, more specifically, love in cinema and even the state of cinema itself. He has taken the oft used premise of lovers on the run and contorted it to befit the consistent notions apparent in every film we have seen by him, notions which are often abstract and at times not wholly accessible, but are nonetheless discernibly consistent throughout. It seems that to analyze based on plot is to marginalize, and the crux is in the language and the imagery with respect to the plot. In the end, I find myself feeling the same way toward every Godard film I see, despite the consistent inventiveness and experimentation—each film is an exercise in existentialism and ultimately an attack on something like the bourgeois and consumerism, war, or perceived American idealism, or government imperialism in general. Though the content does not, by my perception, vary greatly from one film to the next, the films themselves do to a great degree, and cinema as an art is better for it, and this is why I love Godard films, and why I enjoyed this one.

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