Lovers on the run. Many times I have watched films with this plot point played out again and again. Each time it is different and each time it is the same. The couple falls in love, commits a crime and is now on the run. What a filmmaker does with this convention is the testament to how they can twist it and make it their own. Pierrot le Fou is Godard’s lovers on the run film with all of his flourishes and convoluted plot points thrown in.
The film stars Anna Karina and Jean-Paul Belmondo as two ex-lovers who become reunited and kill a man who is after Anna. She is caught up in a gun smuggling business and can’t get out. So, they kill and flee. The whole time, she is saying that they need to go to Monte Carlo in order to get money from her brother who is the gun smuggler she had been working for. Belmondo is resistant to the idea, but realizes there is no going back to his old life. All he can do is travel forward. He spends all of their money on books and they steal gas and money from tourists. They make love on the beach and then grow bored of each other. In an echo to Le Petit Soldat, the bad guts catch up with the girl and torture Belmondo in the exact same way that was shown in the earlier film. Belmondo slowly comes to realize that Karina’s character had been manipulating him the whole time and was willing to put his life on the line in order to get the money she needed in order to get away from her crimes. This realization comes to a head in the crashing finale and with a burst of fire, Belmondo kills himself.
What is fascinating about this film is the layering of the narration. They speak over each other, both trying to tell the story their own way in which they are turned into the hero and not the other one. They end up saying the same thing, but you still get two distinct opinions from what they say. The same about how they talk to each other. Everything seems cryptic and only a hint of how a real couple would talk to each other. This awkwardness and frustration with each other and their miscommunication becomes a premonition of what is to happen at the end. This is exemplified by Karina constantly calling Belmondo Pierrot even though his real name is Ferdinand.
Once again I have to praise the cinematography of the film. When I watched the film for the first time several years ago, I did not like the film, but I appreciated the look of it. The look of it stayed with me and it haunted me when I watched other films using the same techniques that evident here. One is the use of primary colors. By now when he is not shooting in black and white (which become his colors), he favors red, white, and blue. These colors show up again and again in this film. Every shot has these three colors in it and it becomes a part of the story. Why does Godard love these colors so much? He seems to favor bold solid colors and it give his films a certain viewpoint that says hey, look at me. My favorite instances of cinematography is when the couple blew up the car and when they are driving to her apartment as they get reacquainted. Each of those scenes are done so well and with such a definite style that lends itself to the story.
I guess it is hard to find a Godard film that I do not like. I thought for sure I would find this film as empty as I found it the first time. Now that I am used to the way Godard tells his stories and the way Karina and Belmondo act, I find the film full of emotion. Granted it is the emotions of spoiled adult children, but it is still filled with it. I think the ending has got to be my favorite part. I won’t ruin it for you, but I think that you will enjoy it.