Day 258: Pierrot le fou 1965 + ‘Understanding Godard’ + ‘Film Course, Week Five’

Pierrot le fou  1965

A Jean-Luc Godard Film

I got it today. I finally got it and understood it. I know now where Godard was headed. It is his developing ability to film his thoughts.

Pierrout gave me the insight to see that these films are a mixture of the bland – of everything that is accepted – and the current – everything Godard thinks about.

All the quotes are an expression of the inconsequential, the important, the obscure and the words that give life to the confusion and exploration that Godard lives with and seeks to understand better, everyday – himself.

Although he wants to be an anarchist, he doesn’t want to replace God – or a President or a Dictator – and then be able to act like God. He wants to understand the things in life that are the most inexplicable things we are trying to wrap our heads around.

‘Understanding Godard’

I think I understood where Godard is headed after watching five-in-a-row.

1) He’s a man who has had lot information come his way without asking for it. It’s just come his way.
2) He’s read a lot and seen a lot and there’s no avenue for his response, to what he’s read and seen, to be dispersed to the rest of the world – maybe film could be his thing.
3) What he thinks of all that he reads and sees, even in developing ideas for a novel or a film, is unimportant despite the fact that it is often different to the accepted, standard, beliefs.
4) Other people only get to write about all these clashing thoughts in a diary (secret) or a novel (published). Words on paper are almost free. To get to think words as images is costly. To somehow get finance for films that dress up as another kind of film but reveal themselves as a person trying to understand themselves or another person: Art, or Expression, or Expressionism, or the middleground that divides them all.

I think the thing in common is that everyone, who thinks about the bigger picture, has a degree of thinking which they think is worth considering. It’s what everyone wants to have. It’s an argument that tells someone else – convincingly – that they (me/you/him) have an opinion worth listening to or that they accept the other person has the wise mind. With Godard it increasingly obvious that he wants a platform upon which he can mount his arguments and the arguments are worth hearing. They are about not accepting the current situation or the status quo.

I think the reason that I liked Pierrot so much is that it was the most expert in attaching a story to a bunch of thoughts that Godard had going through his mind, for months, if not, years. Everything I’ve seen so far of Godard’s is about having thoughts that are best expressed in words (through essays and interviews) or images. Godard heads down a path that makes images less important and makes words (expressed in any form) more important or universal or paramount.

Today Chris learned that not getting a response to an email or a text doesn’t mean that it’s the end of the world.

Chris had written Georgia off as a good thing that went sour. A decade of friendship. Then six days of nothing. Six days of nothing meant everything to Chris.

He didn’t cut her or anyone out but he did say to himself that unless someone you’re close to responds in six days then they’re history. That’s it. Give up. Go home. No more contact.

He tried to see it in any other light than the one thrown at him but it was all about rejection and rejection and rejection.

Godard reads a lot and sees a lot and experiences a lot and experiences a lot and experiences a lot.

That is the given. Everything else is like icing on the cake. It’s an insight into Godard the director.

He needs to be bold and ask everyone that he sees whether he can be king or not be king.

Macbeth is about being recognised for who you/they/everyone are/is.

Without recognition you are a pretender. Or a predator. Or both. Or open to misunderstanding.

‘Film Course, Week Five’

We’re back in America and we’re watching clips of films, just two minutes, often (seemingly) random, to get a taste for, or of, the film.

It’s so very, very Godard.

The film we ended up watching was a mainstream American film. Or so I thought. I’ve known of the film since I was ten-years old and I’ve known of its reputation but I ‘d never seen it despite dozens of opportunities. I even have a copy of it on DVD waiting for the day when I will get time to watch it, and the other 1,000 really important films I want to watch.

Stratton, however, informed my misinformation and it turns out that this film was not only an independent American film, but wasn’t even distributed by one of the big Hollywood studios. I don’t know where he gets his information but I’m happy to believe and accept it. The film features Geraldine Fitzgerald and Rod Steiger and was directed by Sidney Lumet. As soon as Stratton said those names, I instantly knew what the film was going to be tonight: The Pawnbroker (1964).

Interestingly he made mention of the music score by Quincy Jones which he was thought was very effective. At the end of the film when the last logos and copyright dates came up I realized that it didn’t have an MPAA number. I’ve collected these numbers for decades and realise that this absence indicates that it wasn’t submitted for a rating. It was independent of even the independent-American-filmmaking scene.

What a film! An amazing achievement on all counts. Low-budget filmmaking at its best. Forty-four years is enough time to look at the film without comparing it to everything else that was made around the same time and judging it as we would have then (even though, funnily, this course is all about 1964 and 1965 which means we are).

At the time it had mixed reviews. Not surprisingly because it is hardly a delicate film, and it’s not directed with a light touch, and Rod Steiger’s performance is beautifully superficial for the most part (which it has to be to portray someone who has left all of the horror in a segregated, compartmentalized, part of his brain, in a hard-to-access place, deep within his being), and then believably empathetic in the scenes where his character starts to unravel and he pushes his hand down, on to a spike, to pay penance for the emotional and psychological pain he can no longer access which would give his dead family the emotional devotion they deserve.

As I walked out of the building where this course is hosted I heard someone say to another, “blah blah blah PTSD blah blah blah”.

I knew the words which those letters represent and I’d never considered that for all the trauma that regular people have to endure post-1945, that every survivor of the concentration camps was experiencing PTSD worse than most.

There is a point where, in a human being’s experience, everything but the most basic functions shutdown.

It’s like a device that needs electric power to function. It’s plugged into the power-point and although there’s just a light on the plug to show that it is getting current, it still doesn’t work. We press the on-switch of the vacuum or the radio or the tv or the computer or the printer and we know it has power but it can’t, it won’t, start.

There is a state – a point of being – that is the same. Deprived of current, everything, every battery, eventually, shuts the device down. When the film begins Rod Steiger is in what the PC world calls SAFE Mode. If you ask too much of it, it will CRASH. It can do basic functions. It can even attempt a basic self-diagnostic.

This extraordinary film does – in 1964 – a brilliant job revealing the point in a human life where a battery runs out of life or a life runs out of energy.

  is a film which earns a position as one of the best films of 1964 because Sidney Lumet pulls off almost every single moment of the film with great directorial choices and judgment. The more answers to a thousand questions a day which a director gets right, determines how good the film turns out to be. It could be as simple as pulling an actor back from hammyness (which Barry Levinson didn’t do in Rain Man) or casting a stand-up comedian, Whoopi Goldberg (as Steven Spielberg did in The Color Purple).