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Sunday, January 17, 2016
Jean-Luc Godard | Bande à Part (Band of Outsiders / The Outsiders)
by Douglas Messerli
Jean-Luc Godard (screenplay, based on the fiction Fool’s Gold by Doloroes and B. Hitchens), Jean-Luc Godard (director) Bande à Part (Band of Outsiders / The Outsiders) / 1964
Godard’s most accessible film, Band of Outsiders (or The Outsiders) (1964) might almost be read, at moments, as a rechanneling of his friend, Truffaut’s Jules and Jim (1962), if he hadn’t already directed Breathless (1960), a far more artful study in “outsider” behavior. Of course, Truffaut also did something similar as early as his 1959 film The 400 Blows. In each case bad boys or young men pretending to be bad boys, all of them influenced far too much by American gangster movies and Hollywood Westerns, seek out trouble, taking their girlfriends along for the ride.
In nearly all of these films just plain fun is intermixed with dangerous anti-social behavior which ends in death or, at the very least, incarceration. And what was just a lark is transformed into varying statements on societal destruction of the individual which results in robbery and violence against the seemingly deserving society at large.
But the consequences of his betrayal, a melodramatic shoot-out between Arthur and his uncle, which ends in both of their deaths, seems out of proportion to their foiled gangster-like misdeeds. Even if the outsider band think they have accidently killed Mme. Victoria, Godard’s long lensed camera reveals that she has survived the ordeal, and will now surely share in the reclaimed money with Stoltz.
As Franz, driving away with Odile, proclaims, however, they too have not done so badly. With Arthur out of the way, they can travel South on their way to Brazil, knowing that, as Odile’s “love tube” reveals, Franz is able to make the liquid flow her way.
Godard’s figures understand themselves as fictional characters, whereas Truffaut’s figures seem to forget the game they are playing and end up more tragically for that fact. Band of Outsiders even announces that the adventures of Franz and Odile will be portrayed in an all-color sequel—perhaps, one might imagine, realized in his 1965 film Pierrot le Fou.
Los Angeles, January 16, 2016