Pierrot le Fou

Pierrot le Fou (pronounced [pjɛʁo lə fu], French for "Crazy Pierrot") is a 1965 French New Wave 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 Godard's tenth feature film, released between Alphaville and Masculin, féminin. The plot follows Ferdinand, an unhappily married man, as he escapes his boring society and travels from Paris to the Mediterranean Sea with Marianne, a girl chased by OAS hit-men from Algeria.

Pierrot le Fou
French theatrical release poster
Directed byJean-Luc Godard
Screenplay byJean-Luc Godard
Based onObsession
by Lionel White
Produced byGeorges de Beauregard
CinematographyRaoul Coutard
Edited byFrançoise Collin
Music byAntoine Duhamel
Films Georges de Beauregard
Distributed bySociété Nouvelle de Cinématographie (SNC)
Release date
  • 5 November 1965 (1965-11-05)
Running time
110 minutes
  • French
  • English
Budget$300,000 (est.)
Box office1,310,579 admissions (France)[1]

It 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 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 ex-girlfriend Marianne Renoir, 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 Ferdinand, whom she calls Pierrot – an unwelcome nickname meaning "sad clown" – go on a crime spree from Paris to the Mediterranean Sea in the dead man's car. They lead an unorthodox life, always on the run, pursued by the police and by the OAS gangsters. When they settle down in the French Riviera after burning the dead man's car (which had been full of money, unbeknownst to Marianne) and sinking a second car into the Mediterranean Sea, their relationship becomes strained. Ferdinand reads books, philosophizes, and writes a diary. They spend a few days on a desert island.

A dwarf, who is one of the gangsters, kidnaps Marianne. She kills him with a pair of scissors. Ferdinand finds him murdered and is caught and bludgeoned by two of his accomplices, who waterboard him to make him reveal Marianne’s whereabouts. Marianne escapes, and she and Ferdinand are separated. He settles in Toulon while she searches for him everywhere until she finds him. After their eventual reunion, Marianne uses Ferdinand to get a suitcase full of money before running away with her real boyfriend, Fred, to whom she had previously referred as her brother. Ferdinand shoots Marianne and Fred, then paints his face blue and decides to blow himself up by tying sticks of red and yellow dynamite to his head. He regrets this at the last second and tries to extinguish the fuse, but he fails and is blown up.


Themes and styleEdit

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.[5]


Sylvie Vartan was Godard's first choice for the role of Marianne but her agent refused.[6][7] Godard considered Richard Burton to play the role of Ferdinand but gave up the idea.[7]

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).[7] Toulon served as backdrop for the film's denouement, photography for which included footage of the storied French battleship Jean Bart.

The director said the film was "connected with the violence and loneliness that lie so close to happiness today. It's very much a film about France."[8]

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 first released Pierrot le fou on Blu-ray in September 2008. It was one of its first titles released on Blu-ray[9] before being discontinued after Criterion lost the rights to StudioCanal. In July 2020, Criterion announced the film would be given a re-release in both Blu-ray and DVD with a new 2K digital restoration.[10]

The 1962 Ford Galaxie that was driven into the water and sunk was Godard's own.[11]


On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes the film received an 86% "Certified fresh" approval rating, based on 43 reviews collected with an average rating of 8.12/10. The website's critical consensus: "Colorful, subversive, and overall beguiling, Pierrot Le Fou is arguably Jean-Luc Godard's quintessential work."[12] In the 2012 Sight & Sound polls, it was ranked the 42nd-greatest film ever made in the critics' poll[13] and 91st in the directors' poll.[14] In 2018 the film ranked 74th on the BBC's list of the 100 greatest foreign-language films, as voted on by 209 film critics from 43 countries.[15]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Box office information for film at Box office Story
  2. ^ "Pierrot le fou (1965) – JPBox-Office". jpbox-office.com. Retrieved 14 March 2016.
  3. ^ Margaret Herrick Library, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences
  4. ^ Orr, John (2000). The Art and Politics of Film. ISBN 9780748611997. Retrieved 14 March 2016.
  5. ^ "Pop Cinema: Jean-Luc Godard's Pierrot le fou". www.nga.gov. Retrieved 2019-11-24.
  6. ^ "Interview with Sylvie Vartan (in French)".
  7. ^ a b c Jean-Luc Godard's Pierrot le fou ed. David Wills, Cambridge University Press, 2000 (first 20 pages)
  8. ^ Godard--France's Brilliant Misfit Ardagh, John. Los Angeles Times 17 Apr 1966: b8.
  9. ^ "Criterion September BDs: Pierrot le Fou, Monterey". Blu-ray.com. Retrieved 14 March 2016.
  10. ^ Pierrot le fou Blu-ray Release Date October 6, 2020, retrieved 2020-07-20
  11. ^ p.651 Brody, Richard Everything Is Cinema: The Working Life of Jean-Luc Godard Henry Holt and Company, 13 May 2008
  12. ^ "Pierrot Le Fou". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 9 April 2017.
  13. ^ Christie, Ian, ed. (1 August 2012). "The Top 50 Greatest Films of All Time". Sight & Sound. British Film Institute (September 2012). Archived from the original on 1 March 2017. Retrieved 6 June 2013.
  14. ^ "Directors' Top 100". Sight & Sound. British Film Institute. 2012. Archived from the original on 9 February 2016.
  15. ^ "The 100 Greatest Foreign Language Films". British Broadcasting Corporation. 29 October 2018. Retrieved 10 January 2021.

External linksEdit