Bande à part

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


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.


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.


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.


Criterion Essay by Joshua Clover.
• YouTube clips [1, 23]

3 thoughts on “Bande à part

  1. 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.


  2. 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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