Jean-Paul Belmondo as Ferdinand Griffon, runaway husband
Paris, Spring 1965
Film: Pierrot le Fou
Release Date: November 5, 1965
Director: Jean-Luc Godard
Born 89 years ago on April 9, 1933, today marks the first of Jean-Paul Belmondo’s birthdays since the iconic French actor died in September 2021. One of Bébel’s most memorable movies is the colorful Pierrot le Fou, a pop art equivalent of the French New Wave cinematic movement that marked the actor’s third and final collaboration with director Jean-Luc Godard.
Belmondo stars as Ferdinand Griffon, a bored Parisian husband trapped in a life that fails to satisfy him on personal or professional levels. Following a banal party where the insufferable conversations turn to topics like deodorant, Ferdinand encounters a glimmer of hope when reunited with his capricious ex-girlfriend, Marianne Renoir (Anna Karina), whom he offers a ride home. Since their first meeting five—no, four and a half—years ago, he’s married “an Italian with money” who doesn’t interest him, but he’s grown too lazy to divorce her: “To want something, you have to be alive.”
Marianne seemingly awakens that raison d’etre, so Ferdinand abandons his family life to join Marianne. He wakes up in her apartment, where we gradually come to realize that she stabbed a well-armed OAS guerrilla in the neck with a pair of scissors, though even this violent interlude isn’t enough to bother our lovebirds celebrating their “love with no tomorrow” as she sings to Ferdinand while he smokes in bed during this bright morning.
The story evolves rapidly like a bad dream as they have to kill Marianne’s ex-boyfriend and narrowly escape from two gangsters who had been pursuing her. Armed with a rifle and a copy of a children’s book, The Nickel-Footed Gang, the two make tracks in a red Peugeot 404… which they ultimately need to torch in the French countryside—inadvertently burning up their money as well—as they make their twisted journey from Paris to Nice.
What’d He Wear?
Before adopting a more avant-garde style during his life on the run with Marianne, Ferdinand dresses for his bourgeois city life in a well-tailored business suit, white shirt, and bright red tie.
Ferdinand’s wool suit is woven in a classic Prince of Wales check, consisting of a black-and-cream Glenurquhart plaid with a pale red overcheck. The terms “Glen plaid” and “Prince of Wales check” are often used interchangeably, though Hardy Amies clarified in ABCs of Men’s Fashion, published the year before Pierrot le Fou was released, that “Prince of Wales check is a Glen Urquhart check often with an overcheck in color.” This distinctive suiting originated as a “district check” in 19th century Scotland but was popularized in the early 1920s by Edward VIII, Prince of Wales, hence its enduring name.
The single-breasted suit jacket has wide, padded shoulders and a full cut that, while flatteringly tailored, somewhat engulfs Belmondo’s lean frame to visually communicate Ferdinand appearing overwhelmed by the tedium of his life. Rigged with notch lapels that roll to a full three-button front, the jacket has a welted breast pocket, gently slanted flapped hip pockets with a flapped ticket pocket, double vents, and functioning three-button “surgeon’s cuffs”.
Ferdinand’s matching forward-pleated suit trousers rise to Belmondo’s natural waist, where they’re self-suspended with a single button fastened through an extended waist tab; the trousers have belt loops that remain unused. There are slanted side pockets and button-through back pockets, and the bottoms are plain-hemmed with no cuffs.
Ferdinand wears a plain white cotton shirt with a fashionably narrow semi-spread collar, buttoned up a plain (no placket) front with barrel cuffs each fastened with a button as well. Chris Cotonou observed for The Rake that “the masterstroke here is Godard’s choice of pairing a bright red knitted tie; an accessory so energising that it predicts a long Provençal summer.” The straight, narrow tie is squared on each end.
Ferdinand wears monk shoes, a natty alternative to traditional lace-ups defined by either a single or double strap that buckles across the vamp. Constructed of black leather plain-toe uppers with a single strap, Ferdinand’s monks illustrate the more formal end of the monk-shoe spectrum.
The fashionably short break of the trousers means more screen-time for Ferdinand’s hosiery. He typically wears pale-blue cotton lisle socks, though a brief costume-related continuity error flashes more conventional dark navy socks as he climbs into the Peugeot. Both work with the white shirt and red tie to maintain the Gallic red, white, and blue color scheme that follows our sad clown Ferdinand through the end, but the lighter blue hose are likely the “canon” choice he was intended to be wearing throughout the sequence.
Aside from the gold necklace worn under his shirt, Ferdinand’s sole accessory is a gold signet ring, worn on his right pinky finger and inscribed with a straight design running parallel to the direction of his fingers and thus likely not a monogram.
The morning after he escapes with Marianne, he wakes up in an “OAS-is” apartment clad in a very tight pale-blue cotton T-shirt inscribed with “FERDINAND” printed in royal blue across the chest.
Given that the Organisation armée secrète (OAS) was a right-wing paramilitary organization, there are plenty of guns in its hideout where Ferdinand awakens with Marianne, including pistols, submachine guns, rifles, and a fully automatic MG34 machine gun. The two escape with a Mauser 98 Sporter, a variant of the venerated Mauser battle rifle built expressly for sporting purposes.
Marianne: Give me the rifle.
Ferdinand: The same make that killed Kennedy?
Marianne: Sure, didn’t you know it was me?
Less than two years had passed since John F. Kennedy was assassination before Pierrot le Fou included this brief exchange, indicating that Godard may not have shared the same sensitivity that led Stanley Kubrick to amend Slim Pickens’ line about “a pretty good weekend in Dallas” from Dr. Strangelove.
Sense of taste aside, Ferdinand doesn’t seem like much of a firearms expert as the only shared characteristics between Marianne’s Mauser 98 Sporter and the Carcano M91/38 carbine believed to be the assassination weapon are that both are European-made bolt-action rifles with wooden furniture and attached optics.
Marianne would later use a full-length Gewehr 1898 bolt-action rifle, also scoped, during the climactic sequence.
How to Get the Look
Ferdinand dresses for his life of conformity in an admittedly stylish Prince of Wales check business suit, though his unique touches of character like the bright red knitted tie, pale blue socks, and monk shoes hint that there’s more in store for our “Pierrot”.
- Black-and-white Glenurquhart plaid with red overcheck Prince of Wales check tailored suit:
- Single-breasted 3-button jacket with notch lapels, welted breast pocket, slanted flapped hip pockets with right-side ticket pocket, functioning 3-button cuffs, and double vents
- Single forward-pleated trousers with belt loops, slanted front pockets, button-through back pockets, and plain-hemmed bottoms
- White cotton shirt with narrow semi-spread collar, plain front, and button cuffs
- Red knitted silk tie
- Black leather plain-toe single-strap monk shoes
- Pale-blue cotton lisle socks
- Gold signet pinky ring
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the movie.
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