Bande à part (1961)

“We now might open a parenthesis on Odile’s, Franz’s and Arthur’s feelings… but it’s all pretty clear. So we close our parenthesis and let the images speak.”

‘Bande à part’, directed by Jean-Luc Godard in 1964, is a more accessible movie than his later ‘Pierrot le fou’, but includes many of the same anarchic and ironic themes. ‘Bande à part’ follows a trio of young, disenfranchised students as they plot to steal a large amount of money. The robbery is side-lined by a love triangle between the three that sees them flirt, drift and dance their way across Paris. It’s devoid of any deeper meaning and postmodern to the point of distraction: characters reference Hollywood conventions, break the fourth wall, and the movie has an omnipresent narrator who seems to act as the voice of Godard himself. Even the soundtrack is pulled into the director’s playful manipulation of conventions. Despite all this show-boating it still engages and has a compelling and enduring sense of style. It’s a movie of set-pieces and pleasing superficiality: the dance in a club that influenced Tarantino’s ‘Pulp Fiction’, the referencing of silent cinema in the final scene, the design, the camera movements, the seemingly improvised but somehow stylised performances. It’s not difficult to see why this felt like a breath of fresh air after the crafted, nuanced movies of the 1940s and 1950s. Compared to Bresson and Renoir, Godard is almost a cinematic terrorist wilfully deconstructing, sometimes sabotaging, the form and rebuilding it in new and energetic shapes. It’s in no way better than what came before, movies like ‘The Rules of the Game’ and ‘Les Enfants du Paradis’ but it has a youthful, kinetic gloss that you can’t look away from. It also helps that the central character Odile, played by Anna Karina, is stunningly beautiful and utterly charismatic, again best demonstrated in the dance scene.

Would I recommend it? Yes – for the dance scene alone.


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