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Band of Outsiders (Criterion Collection) back to product details

Amateur hour stretched to 95 minutes and awarded cult status
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written by Lastcrackerjack April 3, 2006 - 7:26 PM PDT
4 out of 5 members found this review helpful
Two shiftless young Parisians - dreamer Franz (Sam Frey) and the opportunistic Arthur (Claude Brasseur) plot to burgle cash from the foster home of a naïve girl (Anna Karina) they meet in their English class.

Directed by Jean-Luc Godard, who loosely adapted the American pulp novel "Fools' Gold" by Dolores Hitchens and provided self-conscious voice-over narration, the film is considered a staple of the French New Wave cinema and one of Godard's more "accessible" efforts.

Godard experiments with the medium in myriad ways that are of great excitement to the film school student. Hand held cameras and natural lighting are used throughout, shunning a classical or more Hollywood-type approach, despite the noir elements of the plot.

Attempting to improvise with the camera and avoid cliché, Godard's "innovation" was to use no real script. He would write new scenes and give them to the actors in the morning and they would shoot it. On the days he had written nothing, they shot nothing. To guarantee a 90 minute running time, Godard had to film the actors reading the newspaper or performing some other bit of business to kill time, such as a scene in a cafeteria where the three characters share a "minute of silence".

Quentin Tarantino apparently drew inspiration from Godard, at least, the use of inane banter among criminals who sit around waiting for their score. The film's best scene - the Madison line dance in the cafeteria - apparently served as inspiration for the twist contest in "Pulp Fiction". And the name Tarantino gave his production company is A Band Apart.

Sadly, "Bande a part" is amateur hour, a total bore of a movie that toils so hard to crash barriers or succeed as a Relevant Film that any joy Godard may have felt toward the medium or whatever freedoms he employed while making it are completely lost on the audience.

While finely tuned banter among thieves, killers and vagabonds are a staple of Tarantino's films, in "Bande a part", there is no screenplay, so no memorable dialogue to be riveted by. This isn't a brilliant statement about the banality of life. It's more of a fraud, a movie by a director who didn't want to waste time with a script or cast actors.

Anna Karina is a poor girl's Jeanne Moreau and the two male leads are utterly uncharismatic and forgettable. The performances have the believability of a gang of teens Godard pulled out of a diner and threw in front of the camera without a clue what they were doing or what to say.

Because there is no script, and no one knew what the length of the film was, there are endless and boring scenes of Shakespeare recitation, traffic or the characters doing circles in a beatup sports car in an effort to pad the running time.

Though sketchy, the jazz score by Michel Legrand gives the film a much needed bounce here or there. Unfortunately, it's not enough to overcome the amateurism faking its way as art that's labored here.

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(Average 8.01)
308 Votes
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