A day like Sunday and you watch this movie “Bande a part”, and obviously so much to love about and never tire of seeing it again and again….. Bande à part is a 1964 new wave (Nouvelle vague) film directed by Jean-Luc Godard. It was released as Band of Outsiders in North America; its French title derives from the phrase faire bande à part, which means “to do something apart from the group.”
The film is an adaptation of the novel Fools’ Gold (Doubleday Crime Club, 1958) by American author Dolores Hitchens. Godard described it as “Alice in Wonderland meets Franz Kafka” & it’s also his radical experiment challenging the French Cinema
Bande à part, is one of the most approachable and accessible film, and this is something of an exercise that Godard jumbles genres in the film, combining a heist movie with musical comedy and love-triangle drama.
Godard took a great deal of influence from pulp novel books, and the whole American pulp sensibility in general. For example, his male characters were often petty criminals who consciously affected the look and demeanor of characters from American noirs and B-movies. Bande à part featured two such characters that set out to rob the home of one of their classmates after she mentions a large sum of money that’s kept in the house. However, Franz (Sami Frey) and Arthur (Claude Brasseur) aren’t career criminals; they’re essentially two wannabe tough-guys and fantasists who figure that this kind of score will set them up for life.
Along the way, each of them vie for the attentions of Odile (Anna Karina), the girl whose home they plan to rob. Naturally, they try to bring her in on it, making her their spy in the house, bringing them details about how much money there is, where it is, and whether or not anyone will be home for the robbery. Odile herself seems to be getting pulled by different feelings: some guilt over accidentally initiating proceedings; a hint of happiness about the possibility of escaping her dull life; and attraction to the two would-be thieves, though she often fluctuates as to who she likes more. The plans for the robbery become further complicated when Arthur’s uncle finds out about and decides to pull the job himself, forcing the three to go ahead before they’re ready.
This movie is rather an intriguing premise, and the plot does unfold nicely, however it’s clear that Godard has little interest in this. The plot is really just an excuse to let him follow three young people around Paris a bit, and offer some of his less contentious perspectives on film. There are three moments in the film that everyone talks about, all of them pure Godard. The first is in a café when the three decide to have a minute silence and the film itself joins them, with all sound completely cutting out. The second is in the same café, immediately after the silence, when Franz puts on some music and the three dance together for a while. The third is the scene when they decide to try and beat the record for going through the Louvre, which they go tearing through, despite some protests from a guard.
As for me, I think this movie endures those old charms. The famous dance scene that spawned a few imitators and so as Louvre sprint scene. The minute of silence I still find a little funny, but largely just because of the faces of the trio as they sit there. As it is, I just spend some of these moments wanting to get back to the story, which I doubt Godard would appreciate.
The three main players in this film do their work admirably enough. Both men offer quite restrained performances, in keeping with the influence of Hollywood genre anti-heroes. Sami Frey is the more stylish, but cold Franz, who wishes he could be warmer for the sake of getting closer to Odile. Claude Brasseur is Arthur, a more masculine presence, and more comfortable in his exchanges with Odile, though he’s actually the more ruthless of the two. Anna Karina, though, does give something more. A gorgeous girl with big eyes and nice smile, she brings out the awkwardness of Odile very well, projecting this sense of vulnerability that’s in a near constant state of ebb and flow. It’s a downright enchanting show from Karina, who was actually Godard’s wife at the time.
Bande à part is a good film, and part of the body of work that should be seen at least once. The story is intriguing and the acting is very good, especially from the wonderful Karina. However, I just can’t say that it had too much of an impact on me, but still a great leveler for the cinema lovers. I do believe that Godard is still an important filmmaker whose work people should see, particularly those who are serious about their films, like film students. So, if you’re looking to expand your filmic horizons, starting with Bande à part would be a wise move……
This movie it stands alongside of other Godard’s cinema, viz. Breathless (1960), Vivre sa vie: Film en douze tableaux (1962), Masculin, féminin (1966), and Weekend (1967), as his finest work. Its greatest strength, though, lies in its expression of freedom and joy amidst urban misery….. Enjoyable & cheerio
- Written & Directed by Jean-Luc Godard
- Casting: Anna Karina; Sami Frey; Claude Brasseur; Danièle Girard & Louisa Colpeyn
- Music by Michel Legrand
- Release dates: 5 August 1964 & Running time is 97 minutes
- Country: France