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Pierrot Le Fou

Lovers on the run (The Criterion Collection)

Lovers on the run (The Criterion Collection)

I first saw Jean-Luc Godard’s 1965 Pierrot le Fou when I was 17, having sneaked into a press screening at the New York Film Festival, and I was convinced that it was even better than Duck Soup, possibly the greatest movie ever made. And it is for a 17-year-old. The epitome of New Wave pop art romanticism, Pierrot — revived in a new print for a week at the Nuart — is as evocative of its epoch as a Warhol “Marilyn” or Beatles VI. The film was partially inspired by the script for Bonnie and Clyde, which had been sent to Godard in ’65, and is almost linear — at least for JLG. Made in the middle of Godard’s greatest period, it’s a grand summation of everything he’d achieved since Breathless — collage structure, autonomous sound, interpolated set pieces — as well as his version of a location thriller. Shot in wide screen and saturated primary colors, mainly in the south of France, Pierrot looks sensational — as does Godard’s then-wife Anna Karina, who, even as she captivates and abandons co-star Jean-Paul Belmondo, is herself the movie’s documentary subject. Karina’s insouciant grace and spontaneous outbursts parallel that of the film: Culturally, Pierrot le Fou is all over the map, juxtaposing Sam Fuller (in his celebrated party scene) with Federico García Lorca, the war in Vietnam and Auguste Renoir. (“Let’s go back to our gangster movie,” Karina tells Belmondo after an idyll on the beach.) Few films have ever been more hostile to Americans and more devoted to their cars. Pierrot is hardly devoid of Godardian misogyny, but whatever personal bitterness infuses the filmmaker’s representation of Karina, the movie itself radiates joy of cinema. Chantal Akerman has named Pierrot as the movie that inspired her to become a filmmaker, and I doubt she’s alone in that. (Nuart)

—J. Hoberman