Quite the heated figure concerning the discourse we can have surrounding his work, Jean Luc-Godard has proven himself a controversial individual on how he brings a story to life for the big screen. Pierrot le Fou shouldn’t be as hotly contested as it is, but with the quirks, charms, and shortcomings of Godard all on display here, it creates a mixed bag of ideas. Some work and performances are pulled off without a cinch, others toil and flounder on the screen for embarrassingly tedious amounts of time. Such a strange creation cannot make for an ultimately strong opinion, especially when I find myself meagrely dipping myself into the side of optimism.
There’s a lot I don’t like about Pierrot le Fou. Pretentious is a word I throw around rather often when I don’t care for the side of caution, but Godard’s piece here is deep-fried in French ostentatiousness. Although the film feels cooped up in its own sell-congratulatory moments, it isn’t a film without a few moments of grandeur. Relatively strong at times, Pierrot le Fou does manage to drag its leading pair through a few scenes that elicit a great deal of talent. Whether it’s their coy, unnecessary yet wholly delightful breakings of the fourth wall or the props they find themselves in the company of whilst making their getaway, the relationship and chemistry of the leading pair is rather nicely rounded.
Whenever the film can get to a steady pace, Godard throws something in to completely veer us off course. It’d be entertaining if it didn’t mean I was actively fighting to be invested in these characters. Dislikeable from the very beginning, but oddly charming, and seeing how they interact with one another and conjure up plans to continue their great escapade is an effective narrative style. It’s Badlands but in the scattered beauty of the French countryside, rather than the grim underbelly of the American Midwest. Jean-Paul Belmondo makes for a comfortable lead character, a similar style to the cockiness and bravado found within Breathless, but with a further focus on his relationship with runaway partner-in-crime Marianne Renoir (Anna Karina). The two make a formidable duo, and they experience some great scenes with one another.
A definite step down from my experience with Breathless, but there’s more than enough here to make for a relatively strong output. Enjoyable at times, but losing its way every now and then as it tries to clamour at the style and prose Godard would like to offer up. Frankly, it’s not all that interesting, but when he puts it to rest and focuses on the dialogue between his leading characters, it picks up rather swiftly. These moments are feverishly fun, and there are merits to both the work of the spirited, antagonistic leading characters and Godard’s direction.
Pierrot Le Fou is easy to admire and easy to despise. Its merits as a narrative feature come into question from time to time thanks to some direction from Godard that just doesn’t settle in well enough. It’s forgivable though, his style never completely overwhelming the merits the film has with its cast. Well-balanced in that respect, it makes for a relatively engaging time, with pockets of self-indulgence dotted infrequently throughout.