Bande à part

A part of this view­ing list: Cri­te­ri­on Col­lec­tion Spine #174: Jean-Luc Godard’s Bande à part.

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Bande à part is only loose­ly a gang­ster film, only loose­ly a noir, and a very uncon­ven­tion­al film in just about all oth­er respects. It is also one of the most influ­en­tial of the French New Wave and is still near the cut­ting edge 43 years after its release. What makes this work so strik­ing is Godard’s pro­cliv­i­ty to mess with the 4th wall, to address the view­er in as many ways as pos­si­ble while pro­vid­ing enough of a sto­ry for the film to remain sat­is­fy­ing as a piece of enter­tain­ment as well as an exper­i­ment.

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There is an incon­sis­tent use of match-on-action, sev­er­al times when the char­ac­ters address the cam­era itself [and there­fore the view­er] and a lot of self-con­scious per­for­mance that indi­cates a cer­tain aware­ness on the part of the char­ac­ters; they know they’re in a film. In addi­tion, Godard’s char­ac­ter­is­tic play­ful­ness results in a sharp humor that grad­u­al­ly changes into gallow’s as the planned crime dis­in­te­grates into chaos.

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In a film filled with cin­e­mat­ic incon­sis­ten­cy, the incon­sis­ten­cies of the human heart play an equal­ly strong role. Odile’s moti­va­tions are the most obvi­ous­ly con­flict­ing, but Arthur’s reck­less and inten­tion­al­ly self-destruc­tive behav­ior is almost equal­ly per­ti­nent as an illus­tra­tion of the Nou­velle Vague ethos. Less obvi­ous, but per­haps even more impor­tant is Franz’s pas­sive and philo­soph­i­cal res­ig­na­tion as third wheel. His unlike­ly advance into agency and Odile’s easy slide into girl­friend mode after Arthur’s anti­cli­mac­tic shoot-out is just as unex­pect­ed as any­thing in the real world, but with Godard in con­trol they come into a dif­fer­ent sort of relief.

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Cri­te­ri­on Essay by Joshua Clover.
• YouTube clips [1, 2, 3]

3 Replies

  • I’m always afraid to watch the entire film. I’ve seen the first 30–40 min­utes a half-dozen times, along with some ran­dom sec­tions; but I’ve nev­er sat down and watched the whole thing. I like the begin­ning so much that I don’t want it to ever end! And as long as I don’t watch the end­ing, it stays so open-end­ed.

    🙂

  • There are some def­i­nite char­ac­ter changes that become more vis­i­ble after a cer­tain minute-mark, but the joie de vivre remains, even though it is a bit pred­i­cat­ed by shock and recov­ery.

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