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, 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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