Thursday, November 14, 2013

Pierrot Le Fou

Pierrot Le FouAt my local UC PIERROT is shown in the survey of film history class they offer. I was invited to sit in once. Normally the professor shows the film, then lectures. He screened PIERROT. When it was over, there was total silence. He started to lecture, but almost the entire lecture hall of students walked out. A good friend told me later that she had been profoundly moved, and she simply didn't want to understand why. She didn't feel it was respectful to what she had just seen. PIERROT is on of the few examples of true mystical cinema that we have. Yes, there are the references to Rimbaud, Hollywood musicals, gangster films.... The visual puns, the references to Godard and Karina's life at the time, the improvisations, the barbs about American commercialism, the Gish-rebeling-against-Grifith quality of Karina's amazing performance... But what do they matter?

Sunlight/love/color/the face/poetry/emotion/loss of love/slapstick/image/life: PIERROT LE FOU

My exposure to Godard films were through VHS tapes. I was too young to watch his 60's films in their original formats. The transfer is not too great but good enough. The colors are right, it is thankfully letterboxed, etc. even if there are a few image distortions, artifacts and the sharpness and overall quality leaves a lot of room for improvement. There is something very wrong, however, with the sound especially towards the fifth chapter (that's the 5th access in the chapter search of which there are only 6 thanks to Fox/Lorber!) Thankfully, this is a subtitled film (can't be switched off/on, they're pasted on the screen) otherwise, even the French won't understand the French dialogue. The noise distortion is terrible, but could it be Godard's deliberate way to convey sound since it is the part in which the CB radios or walkie-talkies were being used in the scene? My impression is that the technician in charge was probably asleep or didn't care when this noise distortion was taking place and the DVD didn't go through quality control which could have fixed it. I haven't seen the original so I don't know but since this is a Godard film, anything goes. But then the distortion continued even after that scene so any reasoning to defend Fox's negligience on this matter proved futile. I found it terribly distracting and I thought it pulled down the quality all the more of this already mediocre DVD transfer. Is this the best version yet? How does the VHS version rate? Fox/Lorber is hit and miss with DVDs. They did good with Seven Beauties, Last Year at Marienbad, and the already LD Criterion-restored Umbrellas of Cherbourg and 400 Blows but did very poorly with A Woman is a Woman, several Truffaut films and even the relatively recent Padre Padrone. What a shame that a company like Fox/Lorber gets the rights to release these great Foreign films but doesn't have the interest to come up with quality transfers. I think this is a waste of our hard-earned money to buy the DVDs that they produce. Next time you buy from Fox/Lorber, read the reviews... otherwise just rent or wait for a better re-release in the future.

Buy Pierrot Le Fou Now

In 1964, Jean-Luc Godard went to work on his tenth film, a color film titled "Pierrot Le Fou" which would feature his ex-wife Anna Karina and Jean-Paul Belmondo (who worked on Godard's "A bout de Souffle" (Breathless) and "Une femme est une femme" (A Woman is a Woman).

The film is his most ambitious film yet, not only reuniting with two stars that he has worked with before but the fact that elements of his previous nine films shows up on "Pierrot Le Fou".

The film was released by Fox Lorber in the US back in 1998 and received The Criterion Collection treatment in February 2008. Over a year later, the film became the first Jean-Luc Godard film released by the Criterion Collection on Blu-ray.


"Pierrot Le Fou" is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:35:1 Aspect Ratio). The film is probably the most gorgeous film I have seen by Jean-Luc Godard to date. The film is full of colors, absolutely vibrant, reds and blues just pop. For fans of Godard's '60s work, "Pierrot Le Fou" is his most colorful film. It's important to note that the restored high-definition digital transfer was approved by cinematographer Raoul Coutard.

Accord to Criterion, the HD digital transfer was created on Spirit Datacine from the 35mm negative and color corrected on a Specter Virtual Datacine. Thousands of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, warps, jitter and flicker were manually removed using MTI's DRS system and Pixl Farm's PFClean system, while Digital Vision's DVNR system was used for small dirt, grain and noise reduction.

"Pierrot Le fou" is featured in its original French language and features a monaural soundtrack remastered at 24-bit from a 35 mm optical track print. Dialogue is clean and understandable and Anna Karina's singing voice is crystal clear in this film. Clicks, thumps, hiss and hum were manually removed using Pro Tools HD. Crackle was attenuated using AudioCube's integrated audio workstation.

Subtitles are provided in English.


"Pierrot Le Fou" comes with the following special features:

* Anna Karina (14:55) A 2007 interview with Anna Karina at the Brasserie Lipp in Paris. Anna talks about working with her former husband and her role in "Pierrot Le Fou" as Marianne Renoir.

* A Pierrot Primer (35:58) Commentary by filmmaker and educator Jean-Piere Gorin (Tout va bien, Letter to Jane, My Crasy Life) presents an introduction to "Pierrot Le Fou".

* "Belmondo in the Wind" (9:21) Jean-Paul Belmondo, Jean-Luc Godard and Anna Karina talk about Belmondo's role in "Pierrot Le Fou". Recorded by journalist Mario Beunat for the television series Panorama and aired back in June 18, 1965.

* Venice Film Festival, 1965 (3:57) Jean-Luc Godard and Anna Karina were interviewed by Maurice Seveno and Christian Durieux for a French TV new segment on the Venice Film Festival back in Sept. 2, 1965.

* Godard, L'Amour, La Poesie (52:59) A 2007 documentary by French filmmaker Luc Lagier tracing Jean-Luc Godard and Anna Karina's marriage and films from "Le Petit Soldat" through "Pierrot Le Fou". Featuring interviews with Karina and Godard collaborators Charles Bitsch, Raoul Coutard, Jean Douchet and Jean-Paul Savignac.

* Trailer (2:06) The theatrical trailer for "Pierrot Le Fou".

* 46-Page Booklet The following booklet contains the essays "Self-Portrait In Shattered Lens" by Richard Brody, "Sarris on Pierrot Le Fou" and "Let's Talk About Pierrot: An Interview with Jean-Luc Godard".


Perhaps one of Godard's most accessible films, "Pierrot Le Fou" is a film that is best enjoyed after watching a good number of his films that preceded this film. With the film now released on Blu-ray for the first time through the Criterion Collection, many people will will be introduced to Jean-Luc Godard but in my opinion, this film is not a starting point for the beginner. It's more of a film that can be appreciated even more after watching his previous films and seeing how things have culminated in his work before he started to focus more on his political films.

"Pierrot Le Fou" is often seen as an early paradigmatic example of postmodernism in film. In the film, Godard shows his feeling towards American pop culture but Godard also becomes gets political as he uses the film for his characters to discuss the Vietnam and Algerian war. For many viewers familiar with Godard and his work, many believe this is Godard's way of using characters to flesh out his true feelings about society. While many feel the film is a paying homage to his nine previous films leading to "Pierrot Le Fou".

Personally, what I enjoy about this film is the adventure that Godard takes you. We wonder how these two people who are in love with each other, are yet so different. Ferdinand is reserved, quiet and just wants to enjoy the simple and peaceful life he has at the moment. Marianne just is tired of settling down and not doing anything. The fact is that she's a bad girl. She's involved with some shady characters dealing with illegal activity but in some way, that is her form of fun and she wants to expose Ferdinand to that life.

The way that Godard has shot the film is quite intriguing. We see things in the film but rarely are they explained. Why does Marianne enjoy killing and hurting others and why is it that both see or do things but not much is mentioned about it. It's like it's something natural for them.

Nevertheless, its the adventure of these two unlikely individuals that I find so interesting. Personally, I found it great to see Jean-Paul Belmondo and Anna Karina together as the primary leads for the film. The two have really good chemistry onscreen and the fact that we are enjoying this adventure of two people involved in criminal activity is quite interesting.

Godard has done a great job and utilizing many scenes with the two together to show their story of life together, when things start to become problematic leading up to a pivotal scene that comes out of left field (granted, this is common theme with Godard's '60s films, always expect the unexpected).

Overall, "Pierrot Le Fou" is an enjoyable stylish, arthouse film. It's also one of those films that I feel is appreciated the more times you watch it. Again, this film is not where you should start out if you are wanting to get into Godard films, otherwise you will find yourself a bit puzzled by how the film is paced, how the scenes were cut and how Godard's endings tend to be.

"Pierrot Le Fou" is a Godard masterpiece, but I highly recommend watching a few of his films such as "Breatheless", "A Woman is a Woman", "A Band of Outsiders", "Contempt", "Alphaville" and "Masculin Feminin" before tackling on this film. Once you start appreciating Godard's filmmaking, then you'll definitely appreciate this film even more.

Definitely recommended!

Read Best Reviews of Pierrot Le Fou Here

Its amazing how certain people considers themselves know-it-alls in film, but really don't know anything. First of all, one person said this was Raoul Coutard's method in making the film look this way... Umm, wrong. And the reason why I know because I just bought a perfect print of Pierrot le Fou from Amazon's French website. The print and sound is so perfect, you'd think Criterion did it. So this horrible Fox Lorber version just doesn't cut it. They did a lazy job in restoring this masterpiece, so there's no excuses for its horrible print. And it makes me ponder as to why anyone would defend Fox Lorber and its not-so-good track record.

The beautiful version I bought (must have a multifuction DVD player to play it. And it comes with English Subtitles) totally unliminated that irritating sound where the scene with the walky-talky came up. (Trust me, if you have the Fox Lober version, you'll know what scene I'm talking about).

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Godard's first ten films are characterized as his most "new wave" of films (why Maculin/Feminin and Weekend aren't "new wave" is beyond me. Perhaps it has to do with Anna Karina and Godard's separation, though they had divorced before filming Alphaville). Anyway, if this indeed is his last new wave film, it serves as a sort of masters thesis of everything that he made before.

Ferdinand/Pierrot (Jean-Paul Belmondo, wonderful) lives an unsatisfying life of domesticity with his rich, vapid Italian wife. Marianne (the beautiful, amazing Anna Karina), a since forgotten fling of Ferdinand's appears in his life once again, and the two undertake a spree of murder, poverty, cunning, theft and isolation. One of the bonus features on the second disc describes Pierrot as the reverse Breathless (Godard's first full length), and it makes sense. Here, Godard is self-referential, making sly gestures and nods at his previous work. Some of my favorite lines of any Godard film are here: Pierrot glad he hates spinach and his old man's monologue on writing and Joyce. Raoul Coutard's filmography is, once again, stunning. The film is awash in blues, in comic book two-tones, which Karina's red dress stands out as an ode to non-conformity.

Of course this is a long film, and though its structure is completely linear, the odd sense of time in it may detract viewers (I for one love it). Different elements and characters seem to be thrown in at odd times, but eschewing the normalcy and heightening the artificiality of cinema was Godard's intentions. Some might see this as arty pretension, well it is. But as a film lover I'm rather tired of movies I watch once and everything is handed to me neatly. Anything demanding close repeated watching is the only thing worth watching, personally. But really, this movie isn't so over everyone's heads as to be unenjoyable to those unfamiliar with Godard's work. It's funny, sad, exciting, and most of all enigmatic.

Now, if you've seen Godard's previous nine films you'll want to see this, unless you didn't enjoy them, which begs the question Why did you watch them? Belmondo and Karina are at once very archetypal characters in the Godardian universe, but they're also very much distinct from the other characters they had played. For instance, they seem to be the complete opposites of their A Woman is a Woman roles. Karina here plays the feisty, un-containable murderess always on the move, whereas the earlier film all she wants is a kid. Belmondo here is a sensitive, artistic brooder, with a playful side to be sure, but in Woman he is a horny, egocentric, calloused hanger-on.

Also, the end of Pierrot is one of the most abrupt, unexpected, wonderfully humorous and disconcerting of any I have ever seen!

So, while I whole-heartedly recommend this to anyone interested, perhaps it'd be best to acquaint yourself with his earlier films to get a gist of Godard's intentions as a filmmaker. If you're new to his work, I suggest this order: Breathless, Band of Outsiders, A Woman is a Woman, Contempt, Alphaville, My Life to Live, Pierrot le Fou. And if you like those then watch Masculin/Feminin and Weekend. All the films mentioned above are outstanding, amazing, brilliant films worth a million Jurassic Parks, Mama Mias, Titanics and ET's.

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