Pierrot Le Fou – THE CRITERION COLLECTION #421 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)
January 24, 2010 by Dennis Amith
A Jean-Luc Godard masterpiece that looks incredible on Blu-ray! An entertaining, vibrant but yet a puzzling film that is worth watching repeatedly, after you have immersed yourself with Godard’s previous works from the early-to-mid ’60s.
TITLE: Pierrot Le Fou – THE CRITERION COLLECTION #421
DURATION: 110 Minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (2:35:1 Aspect Ratio), Color, monaural in French with English subtitles
COMPANY: Janus Films/THE CRITERION COLLECTION
RELEASE DATE: September 22, 2009
Based on the novel “Obsession” by Lionel White
Written and directed by Jean-Luc Godard
Produced by Georges de Beauregard
Music by Antoine Duhamel
Cinematography by Raoul Coutard
Edited by Francoise Collin
Production Design by Pierre Guffroy
Jean-Paul Belmondo as Ferdinand Griffon (Pierrot)
Anna Karina as Marianne Renoir
Graziella Galvani as La femme de Ferdinand
Dissatisfied in marriage and life, Ferdinand (Jean-Paul Belmondo) takes to the road with the babysitter, his ex-lover Marianne Renoir (Anna Karina), and leaves the bourgeoisie behind. Yet this is no normal road trip: genius auteur Jean-Luc Godard’s tenth feature in six years is a stylish mash-up of consumerist satire, politics, and comic-book aesthetics, as well as a violent, zigzag tale of, as Godard called them, “the last romantic couple.” With blissful color imagery by cinematographer Raoul Coutard and Belmondo and Karina at their most animated, Pierrot le fou is one of the high points of the French New Wave, and was Godard’s last frolic before he moved ever further into radical cinema.
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 Criterion on Blu-ray.
“Pierrot Le Fou” focuses on two characters. Ferdinand Griffon (played by Jean-Paul Belmondo) is a man recently fired from his TV job, an avid book reader and an unhappy husband.
One night he goes to a party along with his wife in Paris and leaves his children with his babysitter Marianne Renoir (played by Anna Karina). You get a sense that Ferdinand knows Marianne quite well by the way they look at each other.
While at the party, it’s literally a pop-art based party. He meets director Sam Fuller, sees men meeting other women (some who are nude) at the party and sees his wife kissing another man. Bored and disconnected with society, Ferdinand feels that he doesn’t belong with these people but most of all, doesn’t belong with his wife and his last action before he leaves them is Ferdinand taking a big piece of cake at the party and throwing it at her.
He and his baby-sitter Marianne leave together and you realize that Marianne is a former girlfriend of Ferdinand and both try to catch up on their years away from each other. Also, to anger Ferdinand, she gives him the nickname “Pierrot” for fun.
When the two arrive at Marianne’s apartment, Ferdinand sees a dead man in her home plus a lot of illegal weapons in her apartment. Both act like if there is nothing is wrong and you learn that Ferdinand’s friend Frank was dating Marianne. When Frank goes to Marianne’s apartment, the two then work together and kill Frank. We then realize that Marianne has been hooked up with something illegal that she’s wanted for some reason.
The two then work together in stealing and other illegal activity such as hurting a gasoline attendant and running off by filling the vehicle with gas and head towards the French Riviera, stealing vehicles and then finding a villa where they settle down.
The problem is that Ferdinand enjoys the peace. He enjoys reading his books, writing in his diary and just settling down and not having to be around other people. Just living the easy life. But of course, this is not the life that Marianne wants. She wants to have fun. And when Marianne wants to have fun, that can only mean there is trouble along the way.
VIDEO & AUDIO:
“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 “Breathless”, “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.
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