Bande à Part (Jean Luc Godard. 1964)

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When we recall Jean-Luc Godard, we associate him with the graceful style and poetry of the French new wave. Indeed, his films encompass all that the Nouvelle vague stood for; Cinema du papa, rebellion, philosophical contemplation and visual innovation.

On a basic level, the story of Bande à Part follows three young adults wondering around Paris, playing around and executing a house robbery. While it may sound like a classic crime drama straight out of a dime novel, we all know that’s not how Godard makes films. Instead, we get an eclectic cocktail of philosophical contemplation, romance, literature, death, and playful tricks on the film’s audience. Unlike the American crime drama it links itself to, Bande à Part does not take itself seriously. There are moments when the suspension of disbelief we always associate with films is cast aside as merely a stupid rule. The auteur doesn’t care about rules so breaks conventions. He lets his characters perform a sudden choreographed dance in a café, he stages a fake death, films the three characters on a spontaneous dash through the Louvre and mutes the audio at points. Rebelling against genre conventions and rules, this film is playful in every sense of the word. It’s playful with its form, its characters and its themes.

Much like most of Godard’s work, Bande à Part is about everything and nothing at the same time. In fact, as paradoxical as it may sound, the central point to this film is that it is a film. It’s also one of the new wave’s most fun and charming pieces, with effortlessly cool performances from its cast of Claude Brasseur, Sami Frey and Anna Karina.

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