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About Me:Hi I’m Nadege and I study French at the University of Leeds, and I have just completed my third year abroad in Montpellier studying literature and enjoying the sunshine! I love art; painting and being creative, as well as photography and baking. Travelling is my favourite hobby at the moment; experiencing the French language and culture. I hope you enjoy reading some of my articles!
Directed by Jean-Luc Godard, Pierrot le fou was released in France in 1965, and is an experimental film which portrays the ‘Nouvelle Vague’ cinema aesthetic. ‘Nouvelle Vague’ directors, like Godard, challenge the conventional ways of film-making, which were established in the 1930s and 40s, known as the ‘Tradition de qualité’. The male protagonist Ferdinand has an ambition as an author which is reflected in Godard‘s ambition as a director – which is to have a strong focus on space and colour rather than the lives of the characters.
Classical cinema, which is referred to as ‘Tradition de qualité’, was influenced by the classical cinematic features of Hollywood, in which films had strict narrative structures. Directors at the time created their films in studios and believed that a utopic ending was necessary as the plot was the most important aspect in film. Key features of the films were fluidity, coherent narratives, no contradictions between dialogue and image and no radical character changing. However, in contrast with ‘Tradition de qualité’, ‘Nouvelle Vague’ directors, such as Godard, had the aim to deconstruct classical cinema and to create a new cinematic style through emphasizing the personal and artistic vision of film, and experimenting with new techniques.
Experimentation came in the form of working with lower budgets, using cheaper and lighter equipment and filming in real locations. Additionally, in relation to the structure of film, complex and incoherent narratives were created, with a mix of genres and poetic approaches, taking an oppositional stance toward mainstream culture. This new style of film created a more interactive engagement between the film and the spectator, enabling the spectator to perceive and react to a film, just as they would to real life.
The plot in Pierrot le fou explores the adventures of Ferdinand fleeing a bourgeois existance, with Marianne, his lover, in their journey through the south of France with the aim to reach a romantic utopia they never find. It is important to note that French cultural anxiety was present at the time of the production of the film, as ‘Nouvelle Vague’ directors saw Hollywood as an agent for the destruction of the European tradition of high art. Consequently, Godard uses colour in Pierrot le fou as an emblem to represent the French national flag. Discussing the importance of colour, I will give away the ending to the film, so be warned!
Godard uses colour by using Marianne, the female protagonist, to signify the French republic by dressing the female body in blue, white and red with this also being the colour scheme of her apartment. While Ferdinand often wears blue clothes and the sea, water and horizon are identified with the character as he can be linked with nature. To add to this, blue signifies the end of this journey, with the blue paint he put on his face at the end of the film, before setting himself alight with dynamite. On the other hand, Marianne is linked with the colour red due to the murders she has committed, her dress she wears and the fact that she wants a vibrant, active lifestyle. Her character often speaks about the high life and is associated with passion and emotion. Consequently, the red and the blue show how the protagonists clash, ultimately leading to each of their own deaths. It is therefore evident that Godard uses colour to differentiate the characters.
I find the way Godard produces this film very capturing as the shots, use of space and colours are so important in order to be able to follow the narrative, and you notice yourself completely emerged into the storyline. As well as having a striking plot, Godard doesn’t simply use film to entertain his audience, but he breaks away from the traditional cinematic techniques for a reason, and creates his own, which are used for a political purpose. I therefore encourage as many of you to watch this film – and yes, you are able to watch with subtitles!