Thursday, December 07, 2006

Bande à part

1964, France, directed by Jean-Luc Godard

Shot in just over three weeks, Bande à part has a kind of improvisatory spirit that retains considerable charm: it's constantly on the move, re-inventing itself on the fly with a grab-bag of references (to film, literature, music and the outside world) and occasionally coming unglued as it tries to do a little too much (a problem not uncommon with Godard's films of the mid-1960's). The plot, taken from a pulp novel and centered on a robbery, is of little consequence: the bande à part of the title is composed of three supremely inept burglars (which doesn't prevent the robbery from having a surprisingly brutal streak), who are generally more interested in their own breezy cool than they are in money. Arthur and Franz (Claude Brasseur and Sami Frey) are both constantly at play, acting out their fantasies of gangsters and cowboys; it's no wonder that Odile (Anna Karina) is bemused - as evidenced by her comment directly to the camera - when the boys announce that they need a plan. Needless to say, they are far too distracted by themselves to actually plot things out in any great detail: the meeting to discuss the plan devolves into the film's most beguiling scene, as the trio dances the Madison (with a voiceover from Godard himself making clear that they are as disunited a group as you'll find in cinema, as apart from each other as they are from society more generally). It's interesting that a film which Godard has filled so copiously with reference points has also ended up as one of his own most quotable films, with references popping up in everything from Wong Kar-wai to Ferris Bueller's Day Off; that said, his vision of a wintry, unglamorous Paris, barely developed since the war, is absolutely his own.

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Boston, Massachusetts, United States