Pierrot le Fou by Jean-Luc Godard, 1966
Very sadly, this week French icon Jean-Paul Belmondo passed away. So it feels only right to celebrate his career by watching him at work. With an oeuvre of classic movies to pick from, we’ve gone with Pierrot le Fou, Jean-Luc Godard’s 1966 New Wave triumph. As Ferdinand Griffon, Belmondo stars as one half of a counterculture love affair alongside Anna Karina’s Marianne Renoir. Having left his wife in Paris, along with the city’s mindless bourgeois chat, Ferdinand visits his ex Marianne who just happens to have a corpse in her apartment – and it’s wanted by gangsters who aren’t in the business of giving up.
So Marianne and Ferdinand – or Pierrot (‘Sad Clown’), as Marianne calls him – jump in the dead man’s car and go on a crime spree to the Mediterranean. On the run and on the rocks, resentment gradually bubbles between the couple and their idyllic romantic getaway (literally) turns very strange and very sour. A true Godard classic that saw the auteur push his New Wave sensibilities right to the brink, rewatching Pierrot le Fou is the ideal way to pay tribute to Belmondo’s brilliance.
Pierrot le Fou is streaming on BFI Player.
Pierrot le Fou by Jean-Luc Godard, 1966
A superstar of New York’s literary world, everything changed for Truman Capote when he read a newspaper article about a brutal family murder in the small farming community of Holcomb, Kansas. He had an immediate compulsion to turn this ongoing case into his next book – a far cry from Breakfast at Tiffany’s, released just a year prior. Travelling to Holcomb with his friend and fellow author Nelle Harper Lee, Capote immersed himself in the town, collecting copious research. After the two criminals who committed the crime were arrested, things took an even darker turn as Capote spent hours conducting personal interviews with them, and getting far too close two his subject. The resulting book, In Cold Blood, was a masterpiece that not only changed the literary world forever – it was the first “non-fiction crime novel” – but also Capote himself, leading him to alcoholism and depression.
This chapter of Capote’s life is the focus of Bennett Miller’s critically acclaimed 2006 biopic. An absorbing study of the author from a charismatic self-absorbed attention-seeker to a man broken by the demons he couldn’t repel. The film is centred by the late Philip Seymour Hoffman, who immaculately portrays Capote in a performance that is cemented as one of the finest in cinematic history. The voice, the attitude, the demeanour – you get so lost in Hoffman’s portrayal, lines between fact and fiction become blurred; mirroring In Cold Blood’s own compelling craft.
Capote is streaming on Amazon Prime.
Capote by Bennett Miller, 2006
Sebastian Schipper’s breathless crime thriller is a true tour de force of contemporary European cinema. Shot within a single take, we follow the film’s titular character over the course of 24 frantic hours as though we never left her side. Beginning as a lonely waitress, struggling to adjust to her new surroundings in Berlin, Victoria is inexplicably sucked into the city’s criminal underworld through a dizzying succession of events that gather momentum before spiraling out of control completely. Schipper takes you along for the entire ride without allowing any time to breathe.
Having initially shot the film in a series of individual takes as an insurance policy, Schipper knew the film’s budget would only stretch to three attempts at a single take. After failing with the first two, the final shot proved a winner, with a largely improvised dialogue between the film’s four characters. The effect of this hugely ambitious undertaking is transformative, yielding in a spectacle that feels about as authentic as any filmmaker could hope, with a visceral progression of fear and anxiety that will leave you wanting a cold shower.
Victoria is streaming on Amazon Prime.
Victoria by Sebastian Schipper, 2012