Saturday, September 15, 2012

PIERROT LE FOU (Jean-Luc Godard, 1965, France)

Ferdinand the fool measures his life in seconds: 137 to be exact. Pierrot (now Ferdinand) leaves his choking bourgeois life behind him in the thick vapor of exhaust and races towards a mind-blowing future of betrayal and murder. Though the narrative foundation begins as a man’s mid-life journey into adventure with Marianne, a younger woman (the babysitter), Jean-Luc Godard subverts the typical Thriller genre convention and skewers audience expectations; we are kept off kilter with slapstick humor, profundity, and gunpowder violence. 

The film’s structure seems to fold back in upon itself, like an animal eating away at its own body, gnawing vital tissue and sinew until death softly ascends. His montage is incredible, with explosive editing and jump cuts, utilizing an absurd musical score that is turned on and off like a faucet, peaking at one moment before being immediately silenced. But Godard understands the visual language of emotions as he lets the camera linger upon the characters, exposing their narcissistic limitations, disillusionment, and self-denial. His beautiful mis-en-scene reveals a fractured tempest, a vicious schism between their superficial desires and deep passion: not for each other, and here’s where Pierrot become the clown, his face hidden behind blue face-paint, as he mimes his last vestige of life. 

Godard not only breaks the fourth wall, that invisible screen of ether, but he creates a fifth and sixth wall which envelopes the audience and locks us into their world of contradiction and ironic acuity. This ridiculous joke amuses and entertains while creeping into our consciousness, speaking in the hushed whispers of madness: I’m beginning to see how the ghost of Godard haunts the cinema of David Lynch. There are a few allusions to À BOUT DE SOUFFLE such as Balzac, Lazlo Kovacs, American cars, and Jean-Paul himself but this creates a colorful dichotomy whose cartoonish abandon is abashedly dead serious. Godard plays with primary colors like Antonioni in RED DESERT but for a different purpose: to create a comic book style romance as battleground whose despair is drowned in the placid sea and gentle sky. 

Final Grade: (A)