Pierrot le Fou

Released:  1965

Cast:  Jean-Paul Belmondo, Anna Karina

SUMMARY:  Ferdinand Griffon (Jean-Paul Belmondo) is a married father living in Paris with his wife and children.  Ferdinand had been working in television, but has recently been fired:  however, his wife’s family is wealthy and well-connected.  One night, important friends of his wife’s family are having a party.  Though he does not want to, Ferdinand’s wife prods him into going, telling him that a babysitter has arranged.  As he expected, Ferdinand is bored by the party and the people attending it, and decides to leave early.  He returns to his house, where he offers to drive the babysitter home.  During the ride, it is revealed that the babysitter, Marianne Renoir (Anna Karina), and Ferdinand had been in a relationship some years before.  He stays with her that night.  The next morning, he learns that Marianne is involved in a gun smuggling business with her brother, and because of this, is being pursued by a group of OAS men (the OAS was a paramilitary group during the Algerian War that wanted Algeria to remain a part of France).  In fact, two of these men suddenly show up at the apartment; together, Ferdinand and Marianne knock them out, ten take one of the men’s cars and flee.  They travel from Paris to the Mediterranean Sea, robbing and stealing as they go.

When they reach the French Riviera, they settle down on the beach.  Ferdinand is content, using his time to read and write poetry, but Marianne quickly grows tired of their relaxed, isolated lifestyle.  She insists on going dancing, but at the nearly-deserted dance hall, they are met by one of the men who is looking for them.  He holds Marianne captive, but she manages to raise the alarm.  However, by the time Ferdinand arrives, Marianne has managed to kill the man, and has fled.  Before he can leave, two other men arrive in the apartment, and waterboard Ferdinand in an attempt to learn where their money is (it had been burned up, as it was inside the first car they stole).  Ferdinand makes it out alive, but cannot find Marianne.  After some time, he settles in Toulon, but continues to dream of Marianne.  One day, he is surprised to find her waiting for him.  Marianne tells him that she has found her brother, Fred.  She also needs his help to get hold of a briefcase full of money.  Unbeknownst to him, Marianne’s ‘brother’ is really her boyfriend, and she is setting things up so that Ferdinand helps them, then takes the heat for the crime.  Ferdinand and Marianne are supposed to reunite later in the day, but Marianne betrays Ferdinand, leaving with Fred instead.  Ferdinand manages to find them, and shoots them both.  He then paints his face blue and straps dynamite to his head, intending to blow himself up.  After lighting the fuse, he decides that he does want to live, but is unable to extinguish the fuse before the dynamite explodes and kills him.

MY TAKE:  I was not fond of the last Jean-Luc Godard movie I watched, and I wasn’t too impressed with this one either.  It’s based on a book called Obsession, which is about a man who leaves his family to run away with another woman and embark on a life of crime.  When Godard made the movie, he focused more on the relationship between the two main characters than the book does.  For me, this makes it a rather tedious movie, because just like in Breathless, the characters speak in metaphors all the time.  They also seem to have really flighty emotions:  supposedly, they’re being pursued by gangsters, but you wouldn’t guess it.  They sit around and do absolutely nothing for huge stretches of time, which is really boring, and dilutes the plot.  The plot is hard to follow anyway, for a couple of reasons.  First, Belmondo seems like a really unemotional actor to me – in the roles I have seen, his characters are ambivalent, and don’t seem to have any drive or passion.  This makes it hard to understand why he would abandon his family, or why he would suddenly decide to go on a crime spree.  The other thing that makes the movie hard to understand is all the scenes that don’t seem to fit into the main storyline.  There’s one scene where the characters sing and dance around in a small woods, and I have absolutely no idea why.  I thought they were fighting about returning to civilization, then all of a sudden they’re singing about fate lines.  Seriously, there is no emotion or any kind of tension, which you would expect when the characters are running away from people trying to kill them.  Were it not for the plot summary on Wikipedia, I don’t think I would have a clue about what was happening.

RATING:  Awful.

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