Pop Goes Godard


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 10 days, starting Friday, at BAM—is as evocative of its epoch as a Warhol “Marilyn” or Beatles VI. Pierrot 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 Garcia 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.


Before there was Godard, there was Pablo Picasso and his new-wave sidekick Georges Braque. The thesis of Picasso, Braque and Early Film in Cubism, a provocative exhibit conceived by artworld powerhouse and sometime movie producer Arne Glimcher, is that analytic cubism was a response to the perceptual modernism of the cinematograph—among other things. A sensational gathering of 40 paintings, prints, and drawings are put in the context of primitive actualités and other movies, culled from a dozen archives and shown in a simulated nickelodeon. As these movies played tricks with time and space, so did radical painters. Indeed, modern artists themselves are the subject of one French comedy, the 1912 film Rigadin, Peintre Cubiste. Through June 23, PaceWildenstein, 32 East 57th Street.

Always a great series, this year’s edition of To Save and Project, the Museum of Modern Art’s “International Festival of Preservation” mixes unexpected preservation projects like I Was a Communist for the FBI with virtually unknown treasures—in this case, Jean Renoir’s 1925 Whirlpool of Fate and a 1916 disaster film from Denmark, called bluntly The End of the World. Through June 18, MOMA.

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