Surreal, picaresque adventures of a madman & his girl living outside the law, is like a bad dream made beautiful.
French, English, & Italian). A pretty girl is playing tennis. Ferdinand Griffon (Jean-Paul Belmondo), recently fired from his job in television, is reading a book about Velázquez, the painter of Spanish royalty at “a court that lived outside the law,” in the bathtub to his little daughter. His wife Maria (Graziella Galvani), an Italian with money, intends to introduce him to an executive with Standard Oil at a surprise party for her parents, Mr & Mrs Expresso. Ferdinand prefers staying home, but Maria says that Frank’s niece, a student, is coming to babysit. “His niece?” says Ferdinand: “Knowing him, it’s a call girl.”
At the party (shot with different colored filters) the conversation resembles commercials for automobiles, deodorants, hairdos, lingerie (with a naked woman’s endorsement). An American film director says he’s directing a film, Flowers of Evil – Ferdinand recognizes Baudelaire’s title – about love, hate, action, violence, sex, emotion. Saying he feels like so many different people but alone, Ferdinand, bored, smashes a handful of cake into Maria’s face before leaving. At home, finding the babysitter Marianne Renoir (Anna Karina) asleep, he tells her: “I’ll take you home.”
Director/writer Jean-Luc Godard’s surreal romantic drama of a madman & his girl living outside the law, in which life is an unsolved mystery, is like a bad dream made beautiful. His former lover of more than five years earlier, Marianne (“To want something, you have to be alive”) wants life to be like novels – “clear, logical, organized.” Hearing of “115 killed” in a conflict on the radio, she’s distressed by the anonymity of those lives lost. She promises Pierrot: “I’ll do anything you want.” He repeatedly reminds her when she calls him Pierrot: “My name is Ferdinand.” She sings to him a love song, “Jamais je ne t’ai dit que je t’aimerai toujour.” A scene of a man lying dead – “a story … all mixed up” – in a room with guns as another man, an Algerian gangster, enters – having connection with Marianne’s brother Fred, a gun-runner – whom Ferdinand conks out with a bottle before the couple leave in a hurry.
Guys like Pierrot, says Marianne, are sorry too late. At a Total gas station, Ferdinand tells the attendant, “Put a tiger in the tank,” before Marianne brings the hood of the Peugeot down on his head. They have no money, because when they fake an accident, setting the car on fire, a suitcase in the trunk is full of cash. On foot – “Travel broadens the mind,” quips Ferdinand – they steal a blue Ford convertible, which he drives into the sea. “Life may be sad,” remarks Ferdinand, “but it’s always beautiful.” In a picaresque existence, chapter 7 follows chapter 8; Ferdinand reads from a book of poetry. “There’s a war in Yemen.” To earn money, Vietnam is the topic of their play for tourists, American sailors. Conversation between words (ideas) & feelings (emotions), literature versus music – Ferdinand makes entries in his journal – just as five years before, says Marianne: “We never understood each other.” What lies between space, sound, & color? Tired of sun, sea, & sand on the coast of the Mediterranean, Marianne says to Pierrot: “We’ve played Jules Verne long enough. Let’s go back to our detective novel, with fast cars and guns and nightclubs.” Things are complicated, observes Ferdinand; no, replies Marianne, simple. “Let’s go, daddy-o.” Donovan, a short man, dies of scissors stabbed through his neck. Women can kill too. Marianne’s palm has a short fate line. “She makes me think of music,” admits Ferdinand: “Her face.” A crazy guy relates the tale of a love song he can’t get out of his head. The Algerians put Ferdinand through water torture (similar to waterboarding) in their attempt to locate Marianne & the money. Lost & found.
Pierrot le Fou is available at UW’s Coe Library.