BAND OF OUTSIDERS (Jean-Luc Godard, 1964)

Jean-Luc Cinema Godard’s Bande à part—I am quoting his name as it appears in the opening credits—finds the world’s most famous postwar filmmaker struggling to free himself from the tyranny of plot. There is a skeletal narrative of sorts, having to do with Odile and two guys and their planned robbery of money at the place Odile is living; but having been pressured by the boys to cede to this plan, Odile dismisses their suggestion that the robbery be done today. First she says tomorrow, then “the day after tomorrow”—Godard’s own attempt to keep “plot” from kicking in! Another strategy of “Cinema”: atomizing what we see into shots at different distances; the trio’s breaking into dance; the drab gray poetry wrung from suburban Paris; the documentary approach to dialogue-scenes; the sudden temporary erasure of sound. Cinema Godard distances us because he wants to distance himself from the convention of plot that battles his love of freedom, restlessness, pursuit of poetry.
     We are all Godardians now; but one sees in the narrative set-up here a direct line of influence between Cinema and self-professed Godardian Agnès Varda’s wonderful Vagabond (1985). One also feels self-referentially pouring into Bande à part the influence, even the essence, of Cinema’s A bout de souffle (1959). (Most Western filmmakers have been grappling with the influence of A bout de souffle; why not Godard?) But no matter what middle name he gives himself, Bande isn’t all that much apart from Godard’s then-wife Anna Karina’s gorgeously distressed, captivating performance as Odile; but it sort-of entertains. Moreover, it gives us a luminous moment where we ourselves fall in love with Anna/Odile. Odile expresses dissatisfaction with this and that, but when asked what doesn’t disappoint her she glowingly smiles. Her response: “Nature.”

One thought on “BAND OF OUTSIDERS (Jean-Luc Godard, 1964)

  1. If I were told I’d be strapped in a chair for a week and forced to watch a film on a continuous loop and I get to pick the film, it might well be Band of Outsiders.

    Just too much in there that is simply fun. And maybe if I watch it enough I’ll come to understand exactly what “Cinema” Godard is saying about culture in the run through the Louvre. As the three are running why pan to the David painting of the three Horatii taking the oath.
    But there are contrasts between “high” culture and pop culture throughout the film as well as so many purely cinematic sequences.

    I guess you can find poetry in Jacques-Louis David as well as the death of Billy the Kid. I do love this film

    Of course it doesn’t really end till the final of Pierrot le Fou and for me, you can put that one on a loop also.

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