Band of Outsiders (1964)


Band of Outsiders stars Anna Karina, Sami Frey, and Claude Brasseur. Directed by Jean-Luc Godard

Band of Outsiders is probably the first true art film I have ever watched. I have always avoided art films as much as possible. The people that usually watch them are as pretentious as the films themselves tend to be. There are few films, or even other types of art for that matter, that are made strictly for “art’s sake.” I went into this film thinking I was going to be turned off by the overall “I’m an artist” feel and a general pretentiousness.

I was wrong.

Band of Outsiders is a truly delightful film. The plot is relatively simple in that it focuses on Franz and Arthur (played by Sami Frey and Claude Brasseur, respectively) and their focus on getting a girl named Odile (played by the amazingly beautiful Anna Karina) to help them steal from her rich guardian, who in turn, stole that money from the French government through tax evasion and the like.

The film though is less about the plot and more about the relationships between the characters. Franz and Arthur are friends who are struggling through life (Franz more from boredom it seems, not a lot of background on him; Arthur is literally struggling through life, needing the money to give to his family who is violently mad at him). They are both romantically interested in Odile, though at different levels. Franz seems genuinely interested in being with her because he loves her, Arthur who “has a different girlfriend every week” seems to just be interested in manipulation but does think she is attractive. He has a bad boy kind of persona that really seems to get Odile’s attention, at least at first.

The film as a whole is shot in a very interesting manner. Like most French New Wave films (so I’m told), Band of Outsiders takes you out of the full immersion experience. Godard does this very well. He pulls you into the film and suddenly, just like that, he pulls you back out of the film. You can almost hear him say “Gotcha!” every time it happens. He does this in a couple of different ways. First, the score will start playing without you even noticing, but will come to abrupt ends at seemingly random points. The most dramatic example of this technique is during the famous dancing scene. As they dance, the music cuts in and out, but they never seem to notice and never miss a beat. It is very impressive to watch and makes you wonder if the composer scored the music like that to the film or if the actors have just that good rhythm. At first, the score cutting out is annoying, but as you watch more, it begins to become it’s own entertainment, almost like a game.

A much more subtle way he pulls you from the movie is by having the characters look at the screen or give kind of a “wink wink, we are in a movie” kind of comment. It is also quite effective but a little bit more subtle.

Overall, I really enjoyed this film and hope to watch many more Godard movies in the near future. I would recommend this to about anyone, though I’m sure not many will enjoy it quite as much.

Rating: 4 out of 5

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One response to “Band of Outsiders (1964)

  1. “Cinema is the opium of the masses.” I can’t quite figure out who is attributed to this paraphrased saying, but the point is still there. Godard, among others, believed that film should not be an opiate, but a rather hard slap in the face. They were also obsessed with Alfred Hitchcock (read “Hitchcock/Truffaut”).

    I would recommend “A Woman is a Woman” (Godard), “The 400 Blows” (Truffaut), “Claire’s Knee” (Eric Rohmer), “Cleo from 5 to 7” (Agnes Varda), and “Weekend” (Godard) if you are really wanting something challenging to watch.

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