Pierrot le Fou

By Whitehead, Peter | Framework, Spring 2011 | Go to article overview
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Pierrot le Fou

Whitehead, Peter, Framework

This essay collects the reviews of films by Godard that Whitehead wrote for Films and Filming. The review of One Plus One was prepared by Whitehead after seeing the film in 1968, but it did not appear in the magazine. It is published here for the first time.

Pierrot le Fou

Directed by Jean- Luc Godard. Produced by Georges de Beauregard. Screenplay by Godard, from a novel by Lionel White. Director of photography, Raoul Coutard. Editor, Francoise Colin. Music, Antoine Duhamel. A Rome- Paris Films- Dino De Laurentiis co- production. Distributed by Gala. En glish sub- titles. Techniscope. Eastman colour. Cert A. 112 mins.


Two weeks ago a number of newspapers reported a "story" about the murder of an eigh teen year old bride, a day after her night long wedding party. She was found nude, strangled by her husband's tie and a pair of scissors was embedded in her heart. In all cases the story was described as an "LSD Murder" simply because a number of guests at the party were "under the influence" of the drug.1

Godard's preoccupation with what Sam Fuller describes in the film as the battleground nature of cinema-"love, hate, action, violence, death- in one word- the emotions," his obsession with the accidental, absurd juxtaposition of events, with the home double and equally important, with dreams, myths, self- delusion, have never seemed so perfectly integrated into the "reality" of a film than in Pierrot le Fou. The film starts with Belmondo/ Ferdinand/Pierrot in his bath, reading about Velasquez. As he reads, the theme of the film is clearly stated . . . "the artist is concerned no longer with the rendering of objects but with the space and silence that surrounds them." Godard, and Ferdinand, confronted with the inexplicable Marianne, the object of their love, in their confusion, resort to thinking about that silent dimension that exists forever between people and beyond them. Marianne, perfectly played by Anna Karina, and her lover Ferdinand, whom she calls Pierrot, compare the things they love in life. She loves what is tangible, flowers, blue sea, animals, while he says ambition, hope, the motion of things, accidents. She concludes that it's not surprising that they never understood each other, that such a space will always separate them. That void, that gulf, is the reality which we wish to deny, to escape from, which we fill with dreams, myth and despair, which Godard fills with his films.

Pierrot le Fou is to Godard what The Seventh Seal was to Bergman. The latter took the style and form of a Ghelderode play to make his statement about our crusade towards life and away from its suffering, while Godard paints picture in film, which is part Roman a quatre sous, part "Gangster Movie," part "Pop- Art Montage Collage," but in the end, pure Godard.2

Ferdinand is bored to death with his rich wife. At a ghastly party, all TV commercials, he meets a former girlfriend Marianne Renoir. He escapes with her to her place. The following morning, having found it necessary however, to eliminate her boyfriend/partner in crime, having casually ignored the body of a man murdered by a pair of scissors embedded in his neck (as if it was just a story they'd read in a newspaper that morning), on an impulse they abandon themselves to the South.

He is beguiled into Marianne's dream- like world, into her crazy adventure story. He is betrayed later because for her it is real. She warns him she wants their love to be short and sweet, but his despair has trapped him. He embarks with her on the "trip," their-"Story, all mixed up, like an escape from a dream, in silence, in silence, in silence." They are two characters not content to read about excitement and adventure, who risk everything (which for him is nothing) to enact such a life in reality.

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