Pierrot Le Fou

Jean-Luc Godard?s Pierrot Le Fou is many things -- none of which you can quite put your finger on. A giddy thriller, a political polemic masquerading as a musical, a love story that?s also a discourse on art; this 1965 masterpiece finds its fabled director just about to ford the stream to where radical politics, and equally radical film form, take precedence over relative accessibility. Not that Pierrot hand-holds the viewer. As was his manner in the first near-decade of his career, Godard indulges freely in the elliptical, the outrageously cartoonish, and the didactic, breaking the illusionary Fourth Wall with impunity. Plot becomes secondary to the disparate musings of the director as voiced by his filmic counterparts, the glorious duo of Jean-Paul Belmondo and Anna Karina, Godard?s wife at the time. Saturated in bombastically beautiful color by way of Raoul Coutard?s eye-popping cinematography, Pierrot, and the following year?s Masculin/Feminine, cap off an audacious run of signature Godard works that commenced with the big bang of Breathless in 1959. Very much of its time -- critical jabs at the Vietnam War and American cultural and economic imperialism run rampant throughout -- Pierrot is simultaneously an irreverent, riotously funny critique of bourgeois life and an elemental, poignant account of a relationship running into the ground. No wonder Godard?s early work remains the template for contemporary directors who still gaze in wonder at how effortlessly he kept so many balls in the air at once, all the while giving the appearance that he was improvising the whole shoot on the fly. Admire Tarantino and his ilk all you will, but never overlook the daddy of them all. -

July 28: Percy Bysshe Shelley and Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin eloped on this day in 1814.

Crime fiction legends Dennis Lehane and Michael Connelly discuss the new book that unites their beloved sleuths Patrick Kenzie and Harry Bosch.

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Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
Paradise and Elsewhere

Canadian short story marvel Kathy Page emerges as the Alice Munro of the supernatural from these heartfelt tales of shapeshifting swimmers, mild-mannered cannibals, and personality-shifting viruses transmitted through kisses.

Pastoral

When a persuasive pastor arrives in a sleepy farm town, his sage influence has otherworldly results (talking sheep, a mayor who walks on water). But can he pull off the miracle of finding kindly local Liz Denny the love of her life?  Small wonder looms large in this charmer from Andre Alexis.

The Hundred-Year House

When a poetry scholar goes digging through the decrepit estate of his wife's family to uncover a bygone arts colony's strange mysteries, he awakens a tenacious monster: his mother-in-law. A wickedly funny take on aging aristocracies from author Rebecca Makkai (The Borrower).