Band of Outsiders
Directed by Jean Luc Godard (1964) Starring: Anna Karina, Sami Frey, Claude Brasseur
There’s a tiny part of me that’s regretting loading my Blindspot queue with a ton of foreign films, since it’s harder to multitask when watching a movie on the second to last day of the month, when I’ve still got homework to get done.
However, one of Jean Luc Godard’s early classics did not skate by me last night. I managed to give it my whole attention.
There’s something very fun and kinetic about the French New Wave. It takes a lot of its elements from love of the Hollywood films of the 30s and 40s and they tend to be conscious that what’s happening is a movie. At the same time, there’s the feeling that a shoe’s about to drop and a character is going to start waxing poetic about an existential crisis. Bande a Part doesn’t have too many scenes like that, but there is an omnipresent narrator who reveals the character’s thoughts every so often.
After meeting young Odile (Karina) at an English class, Franz (Frey) and Arthur (Brasseur) find out that a lodger at her house is holding a lot of cash in his wardrobe. They get close to Odile and convince her to help them. Arthur seduces her while Franz feels lonely in Paris, and Odile keeps switching between helping and resisting.
To be honest, Bande a Part is a pretty uncomfortable story. Two older, rather emotionless men flit around a young woman and seduce her in order to gain her money. While certain scenes feel like Odile knows what she’s getting into, there are double the times when it looks like she’s about to get date-raped. This might be cultural and generational differences, but I’m still drawing the line: It ain’t okay.
Structurally, it feels like a novel ran into a B-movie and left the narration behind, occasionally having moments that are very sensitive about the context this story is appearing. Those are the moments that remain interesting – the literal moment of silence, the dance scene, the constant switching between chairs at the table. These make the French New Wave style feel like the influential movement film history tells us it is, but it’s bogged down by non-characters. And that’s probably part of the style as well.
As much as I love the kinetic energy of running through the Louvre and dancing in a cafe, I can’t say I didn’t get distracted from the film. After awhile, I started thinking about Jason Wu’s New Wave-inspired line from Target, which made me wonder: Was the French New Wave a statement of style over substance in art?