Pierrot le Fou

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Pierrot le Fou

Year: 1965 Country: France / Italy
Directed by Jean-Luc Godard
Featuring Jean-Paul Belmondo / Anna Karina / Dirk Sanders

Introduction

Riffing on the classic couple-on-the run movie, enfant terrible Jean-Luc Godard took the narrative innovations of the French New Wave close to breaking point.

“Pierrot le fou is an American film noir, shot in the sunny countryside of Renoir, re-edited by a Soviet montage maniac and then presented as a lecture about itself.”
David Thomson, The Independent, 2002

Hollywood classics such as You Only Live Once (1937) and They Live by Night (1948) had long established the archetype of doomed, criminal lovers taking to the road to escape their fate. Continuing his headlong reinvention of cinema (this was his tenth film in six years), Jean-Luc Godard used the model to tell the story of what he called the “last romantic couple”: a Parisian (Jean-Paul Belmondo) and his babysitter (Godard’s then-wife Anna Karina) who take off for the south of France with a cache of gunrunning money.

In true Godardian style, the flimsy plot played coathanger for satirical digressions (on commercialism and the Vietnam war), kaleidoscopic stylistic devices, sunny musical numbers and a merciless examination of male-female incompatibility, shot in intoxicating primary colours by Raoul Coutard.

Godard would soon leave storytelling behind altogether, but Pierrot le fou fed into a spate of New Hollywood criminal-couple films, beginning with Bonnie and Clyde (1967).