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Pierrot le fou (1965)

  • Film

Time Out says

The 100 best French films

Director : Jean-Luc Godard

This film ranked #4 in Time Out's list of the 100 greatest French films. Click here to see the full list. 

Jean-Paul Belmondo mooches up to Samuel Fuller at a cocktail party and, naturally, asks him his thoughts on cinema. Fuller replies: ‘Film is like a battleground. Love. Hate. Action. Violence. Death. In one word: Emotions.’ His succinct and, let’s be honest, utterly hip rejoinder fluently captures what we’re about to undergo with Godard’s mischievous, free-associative tenth film, ‘Pierrot le Fou’.

The party ends and we’re launched into the lunatic orbit of Belmondo’s Ferdinand and Anna Karina’s Marianne: he a rakish, unemployed adman choking on consumerist jargon and bourgeois conformity, she a happy-clappy coquette with unspecified links to an underground military faction. Each is an impulsive, alienated, despairing soul who finds solace in the other’s desire for chaos and withdrawal. They flee Paris for the south of France in a hail of gunfire and Gauloises. They converse in disjointed, inhumanly droll patter, break  into song, duff up gas station attendants and eagerly concoct a new civilisation on a deserted beach. Then, as their relationship begins to fray, it all goes horribly wrong…

Basing his film ever so loosely on Lionel White’s pulp crime novel ‘Obsession’, Godard inventively drapes genre pastiche, literary references, flash inserts and cheeky agitprop over a robust ‘Bonnie and Clyde’-like framework to deliver a film which, in spirit, feels like both the sum total of his past work and an exhilarating sign of things to come. It’s a wild-eyed, everything-in-the-pot cross-processing of artistic, cinematic, political and personal concerns, where the story stutters, splinters and infuriates its way to an explosive finale. Taken as a whole, we’re right back to that word again: emotions.

Written by David Jenkins
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