Lamour De Pierrot Descriptive Essay

paintings in Pierrot le fou

Jean-Louis Leutrat writes: 

'Pierrot-Ferdinand reads a paperback edition of Elie Faure's Histoire de l'Art and frequents works of art in the form of postcards that can be pinned to the wall. His experience is that of the ordinary twentieth-century man who accedes to art through commentary and reproductions' (Kaleidoscope p.85).

As well as the vignettes on the covers of the two volumes of Faure, above, paintings from the history of art appear in Pierrot le fou in four different ways.

- as postcards pinned to a wall:
- as posters, also pinned to a wall:
- as reproductions on a solid support, either framed or unframed. These are not always on a wall:
- and as inserts, in each case a detail of the larger picture:
One difference between the first three modes (and also the Faure book covers) and the last is a difference between diegetic and non-diegetic reference. Three of the inserts are of paintings that do not appear in the diegesis but are inserted as narrational commentary:
Three are inserted during a sequence (in Marianne's apartment) in which postcards of the same paintings are pinned to the walls, but the inserts are not motivated by a look, as if they were simply close-ups. They are illustrations of the disembodied dialogue between the lovers:
Two other paintings that appeared as postcards in Marianne's apartment, Picasso's Les Amoureux and Chagall's Cap Ferrat, are inserted later, alongside a comic book cover, to serve the narration:
In the sequence where two 1954 Picasso portraits are seen as posters, three inserts detailing the eyes of their female subjects accompany the sounds of Ferdinand being beaten up, as if this male-on-male violence were happening before the females' gaze:
That Jacqueline's eye is turned upside down might be abstractly 'point of view' (Ferdinand's altered view as he is manhandled by a gangster), but it remains, I think, a narrational insert. 

There is system in the choice of paintings referenced in Pierrot le fou. Ferdinand reads first the first part of the Modern section of Faure's history of art, where Modern is opposed to Renaissance, Medieval and Antique. Despite his interest in passages on Velasquez, no works by him or by any other discussed in that volume appear in the film. Later he is reading the second part of the Modern section, which overlaps with the time frame of the paintings featured in Pierrot le fou, i.e. 1880 to 1954:
The one painter featured in Pierrot le fou who wouldn't have been known to Faure (died 1937) is Georges Mathieu. Of the two works seen I can only identify one, Les Capétiens partout, from 1954. This is a small-scale reproduction of a work measuring three metres by six metres:
(Sally Shafto identifies the other as La Bataille de Bouvines (1954), but the blue painting above doesn't match the reproductions I have seen of that work.)

There are several works of art either too obscure or too ill-positioned to be identified but which provide a general background of lesser art against which the foregrounded masterpieces may be read:
One of these lesser works, however, enters more directly into the film's system of painting. The very last artwork shown in the film, as Ferdinand carries Marianne's dead body in from outside, represents a woman carrying a wheatsheaf:
The very first artwork inserted was Renoir's Petite fille à la gerbe. The film only shows the little girl's face, afte a closeup of Marianne, as the voiceover pronounces the name 'Marianne Renoir':
The opening identification of Marianne and Renoir's little girl with a wheatsheaf in her lap is at the close an identification with a grown woman, also carrying a wheatsheaf.
The postcards, posters and other reproductions of paintings that appear in the diegetic space are aligned there with other kinds of printed imagery, chiefly photographs from magazines. These are of two general types, political in the first apartment:
Pornographic in the second:
Both types are beyond my powers of identification, though I did recognise Gina Lollabrigida on the cover of Paris Match (November 1954) - a quite different comparison from that which matched Marianne and Renoir's little girl:
Establishing relations between images in the film's diegetic spaces demands a degree of interpretative labour. More immediate are the relations established by the film between its various inserted images. High art is matched by pop imagery and graphics, shown through both inserts and close-ups on signage:
The first appearance of pop imagery places it, and commercial signage, on the same level as high art. Preceded by a petrol station sign, a detail of a comic book cover isolates a woman's face and a man's torso, and is immediately followed by a (cartoonish) Picasso and a (cartoonish) Chagall showing couples:
These four images together illustrate the commentary-dialogue on the voice-over: 'Total - It was an adventure film - Diadem of Blood -  Total - Tender is the Night - It was a love story.' 

Fitzgerald's novel is connected to Chagall's Cap Ferrat (and to Pierrot le fou) by its Rivierasetting. The commentary puts the 1934 novel on the same level as 'Diadem of Blood',  the June 1965 comic book from which the illustration comes: 
This is the second issue in the Mister-X series. Later in Pierrot le fou the camera pans down the cover of issue 1, showing another pairing of male and female:
The shared motif of a woman's gaze is another alignment of pop imagery and high art:
Renoir, Nu (1880); Matisse, Grand intérieur rouge (1948), Conversation (1941) & La Blouse roumaine (1940)
Picasso, Les Amoureux (1922) & Paul en Pierrot (1925); Chagall, Cap Ferrat (1952)
Picasso, Portrait de Sylvette (1954) & Jacqueline aux fleurs (1954)
Modigliani, Femme à la cravate (1917)
Picasso, Jeune femme au miroir (1932)
Mathieu, Les Capétiens partout (1954) & unidentified Mathieu painting
Renoir, Petite fille à la gerbe (1888)
Picasso, Paul en Pierrot (1925)
Matisse, La Blouse roumaine (1940)
Picasso, Les Amoureux (1922)
Chagall, Cap Ferrat (1952)
Renoir, Baigneuse couchée au bord de la mer (1892)
Van Gogh, Café Terrace at Night (1888)

Pierrot le Fou (pronounced [pjɛʁo lə fu], French for "Pierrot the madman") is a 1965 French film directed by Jean-Luc Godard, starring Jean-Paul Belmondo and Anna Karina. The film is based on the 1962 novel Obsession by Lionel White. It was Jean-Luc Godard's tenth feature film, released between Alphaville and Masculin, féminin. The film was the 15th highest-grossing film of the year with a total of 1,310,580 admissions in France.[2] The film was selected as the French entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 38th Academy Awards, but was not accepted as a nominee.[3]


Ferdinand Griffon (Jean-Paul Belmondo) is unhappily married and has been recently fired from his job at a TV broadcasting company. After attending a mindless party full of shallow discussions in Paris, he feels a need to escape and decides to run away with an ex-girlfriend, Marianne Renoir (Anna Karina), leaving his wife and children and bourgeois lifestyle. Following Marianne into her apartment and finding a corpse, Ferdinand soon discovers that Marianne is being chased by OAS gangsters, two of whom they barely escape.

Marianne and "Pierrot" – the unwelcome nickname meaning "sad clown," which Marianne gives to Ferdinand during their time together – go on a travelling crime spree from Paris to the Mediterranean Sea in the dead man's car. They lead an unorthodox life, always on the run. Settling down in the French Riviera after having burnt the dead man's car (full of money) and sunk a second car into the Mediterranean Sea, their relationship becomes strained. Griffon ends up reading books, philosophising and writing in his diary. Marianne becomes bored by their living situation and insists they return to town, where in a night club they meet one of their pursuers. The gangsters waterboard Pierrot and depart. In the confusion, Marianne and Ferdinand are separated, with her travelling in search of Pierrot and him settling in Toulon.

After their eventual reunion, Marianne uses Ferdinand to get a suitcase full of money before running away with her real boyfriend, Fred (Dirk Sanders), to whom she had previously referred to as her brother. Pierrot shoots Marianne and her boyfriend, and then paints his face blue and decides to blow himself up by tying sticks of red and yellow dynamite to his head. Regretting his decision at the last second, he tries to extinguish the fuse, but fails and is blown up.


Themes and style[edit]

Marianne's nickname for Ferdinand, "Pierrot" is a reference to Claude Sautet and his first movie, Classe tous risques (1960).

Like many of Godard's films, Pierrot le fou features characters who break the fourth wall by looking into the camera. It also includes startling editing choices; for example, when Pierrot throws a cake at a woman in the party scene, Godard cuts to an exploding firework just as it hits her. The film has many of the characteristics of the then dominant pop art movement,[4] making constant disjunctive references to various elements of mass culture. Like much pop art the film uses visuals drawn from cartoons and employs an intentionally garish visual aesthetic based on bright primary colors.


Sylvie Vartan was Godard's first choice for the role of Marianne but her agent refused.[5][6] Godard considered Richard Burton to play the role of Ferdinand but gave up the idea.[6]

As with many of Godard's movies, no screenplay was written until the day before shooting, and many scenes were improvised by the actors, especially in the final acts of the movie. The shooting took place over two months, starting in the French riviera and finishing in Paris (in reverse order from the edited movie).[6]Toulon served as backdrop for the film's denouement, photography for which included footage of the storied French battleship Jean Bart.

Jean-Pierre Léaud was an uncredited assistant director on the movie (and also appears briefly in one scene).

The American film director in the party scene is Sam Fuller as himself.

The Criterion Collection has released Pierrot le fou on Blu-ray Disc in September 2008. It was one of its first titles released on Blu-ray Disc.[7] However, the Blu-ray Disc was discontinued after Criterion lost the rights to StudioCanal.

The 1962 Ford Galaxie that was driven into the water and sunk was Godard's own[8].


Critical response[edit]

On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes the film received an 85% "Certified fresh" approval rating, based on 39 reviews collected with an average rating of 7.8/10. The website's critical consensus: "Colorful, subversive, and overall beguiling, Pierrot Le Fou is arguably Jean-Luc Godard's quintessential work."[9]

In other media[edit]

The twentieth episode of the anime series Cowboy Bebop shares its title with Pierrot le Fou. The episode focuses on an assassin known as Mad Pierrot Tongpu, who targets show protagonist Spike Spiegel.

See also[edit]


External links[edit]

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