Two crooks with a fondness for old Hollywood B-movies convince a languages student to help them commit a robbery.Two crooks with a fondness for old Hollywood B-movies convince a languages student to help them commit a robbery.Two crooks with a fondness for old Hollywood B-movies convince a languages student to help them commit a robbery.
Why would Godard, who has just expanded into making a film, a major film, like Contempt (and will go on to make Pierrot le fou (which I haven't seen yet, though I will in the next few days) and Alphaville) go back to a cheap crime movie? I would guess that it has something to do with the conditions Godard underwent when making Contempt (harassed by producers and Jack Palance alike). And I don't know what Godard himself felt about Contempt, but I personally found it really stuffy, self-important and ultimately disappointing. After dealing with a big budget, internationally produced film (by three separate producers), I'm sure that another cheaply made crime film appealed to him.
And I have to admit that I fell into that critical trap when I began watching this film. It seemed a lot like Breathless (and Shoot the Piano Player and Jules and Jim). And although I was liking it, I was also kind of bored. That is until about a half an hour through, when there is this amazing dance scene, probably the most famous part of this film if there is any famous part at all. The three main characters, Arthur, Odile and Franz do this great dance (kind of a proto-line dance, although a lot more attractive) to a great jazz piece (the music is great throughout, like it is in all of Godard's other films; he has quite the ear for it). As they dance, the music stops (as it did in Une femme est une femme) and Godard inserts what each of the characters are thinking as they still dance around musicless. It is a great scene, as good as any of Godard's other innovations, and it completely won me over. After that, everything about the movie seemed to get better and better as it went along. Perhaps my attention was unfocused before that, but afterwards I became involved. The characters started to become three dimensional, and the story, although from a cheap dime-store novel, became compelling. And its greatness escalated steadily as the film progressed, until it ended.
Let's discuss for a moment the acting of Anna Karina, at the time Godard's wife and obsession. I don't remember Alphaville enough to recall how she was there, but, just lately, I have seen her in Une femme est une femme and Vivre sa vie. I was unsure whether she was a good actress or not. Of course, she was hypnotizing. For the sake of mankind, she has to be one of the most beautiful women who ever lived. Her eyes are just amazing. In Vivre sa vie, Godard compared her godly visage to that of Marie Falconetti of The Passion of Joan of Arc. Now that film I take seriously, never putting up with any derogatory thing said about it. And I was initially offended that Godard would be so bold as to compare his wife to Falconetti, perhaps the best actress who ever lived. But now, I'm no longer offended. Karina is a great actress. In the three films that I remember seeing her in, she has played three very different characters successfully. In Une femme est une femme, her role required a woman of strong convictions and independence with a twist of camp. She was great there. In Vivre sa vie, her role required also strong convictions and independence, but in a completely different way. Une femme est une femme was joyful in mood, for the most part, kind of sweet, really, but Vivre sa vie is a definite tragedy. Her convictions and independence end up destroying her. Now in Bande a part, Karina is a young girl who is fed up with her daily routine. She finds two guys from the wrong side of the track who seem to be offering her a better life. She soon, however, realizes that they are using her. Her trusting innocence is completely believable, and so is the nervousness that comes later. It's a very subtle performance, and Karina develops her character marvelously.
Bande a part is not the typical Godard movie. The experimentation is much less than in his other films. Therefore, no one who writes on Godard ever needs to bring it up. If it had been made by another director, its fame may have been greater. My prediction is that a Godard enthusiast will dislike it, or at least see it as lesser. One who despises Godard may find him/herself liking this film, especially if that person likes Truffaut's films better. Myself, I appreciate Godard a lot, but do not idolize him. Some will defend him no matter what. I believe that he can make mistakes, such as Contempt and Alphaville (two films which many people idolize). I believe that, just because Bande a part repeats other films a bit, there is no real reason to ignore it, for it has a lot of greatness in it. 10/10
- Apr 21, 2001