Film: Band of Outsiders

Here’s one for film history buffs (and probably not many others): Jean-Luc Godard’s Band of Outsiders (1964). This kitschy, moody French New Wave film is about a trio of Paris misfits who plan a heist. Young, beautiful Odile (Anna Karina) meets a couple of sketchy jerks in her English class: the obviously reprehensible Arthur (Claude Brasseur) and the slightly more palatable Franz (Sami Frey). Odile has revealed to Franz that a boarder in her house possesses a considerable sum of money, probably stolen from the government. Franz conveys this to Arthur, who spearheads a plan to steal the money – an operation that the impressionable Odile decides to facilitate.

If you ever wondered what would happen if a heist film collided with the French New Wave, Band of Outsiders may be for you. Alas, it’s more interesting than satisfying, its quirky, experimental New Wave techniques trumping the crime caper aspect. This film is slow, slow, slow, with a side of odd, taking its sweet time to build up to its climatic event. Along the way it revels in audacious (for its era) filmic playfulness: breaking the fourth wall, experimenting with sound and film editing, and casting long, lingering glances at its three stars. There is an entertaining crime story buried underneath the  love triangle build-up, but Godard doesn’t seem particularly interested in it. Ultimately, neither was I, despite the adorable Karina and one memorably groovy dance sequence. A clever and stylish piece of film history, but pretty skippable.


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