Bande À Part is one of Jean-Luc Godard’s most beloved films, and for a very good reason. It is absolutely timeless and incredibly charming.
To say too much about the story would be to spoil all the fun, but here’s a synopsis: Odile (Anna Karina) lives with her aunt in a suburb of Paris. When she meets Franz (Sami Frey) she tells him about the horde of money that is hidden inside the lodger’s room at her aunt’s villa. Together, Odile, Franz and Franz’s best friend Arthur (Claude Brasseur) plot to steal the money but both the young men have fallen for Odile and are competing for her affections while - to make matters even more complicated - Arthur’s crooked uncle (Ernest Menzer) finds out what they are planning and demands a piece of the action, which forces the three hapless gangsters to stage their heist sooner than planned. Things do not go well. There are double-crosses, bullets are fired, Odile, Franz and Arthur make a joyful impromptu attempt on the ‘sprinting through the Louvre’ world record, and there’s a very cool, extremely iconic, dance sequence, which many other directors have tried to reproduce but none have bettered (although Quentin Tarantino came closest, when he unleashed John Travolta and Uma Thurman on the dance floor in Pulp Fiction… yes, without Bande À Part that scene would never have happened.) There’s also a wonderfully dry narration, supplied by Godard himself, which performs a pretty clever sleight-of-hand – while keeping us outside of the action and reminding us we are watching a film, it also, at the same time, places us deeper inside the character’s heads and makes the film a more immersive experience. Put simply, Band À Part is a revolutionary blend of heist thriller, hipster romance and surrealist fairytale that, together with Godard’s earlier film (also a crime story) A Bout De Souffle (1960) defined the French New Wave and stylishly turned the conventions of European film-making inside-out. It is one of world cinema’s greatest masterpieces and if you haven’t seen it yet, you really are in for a treat.
You won’t be surprised to hear that the BFI’s new Blu-ray looks and sounds superb. Raoul Coutard’s cinematography is breath taking, and Godard’s gritty grimy interpretation of ‘60s Paris really jumps off the screen. There is also a treasure trove of wonderful special features including a full-length audio commentary, a terrific 2016 interview with Anna Karina, a delightful silent film starring Karina, Godard and Sami Frey and a whole handful of fascinating extras, including an especially interesting chat with Claude Chabrol, who, like Godard, was a film critic-turned-filmmaker whose work was instrumental in shaping nouvelle vague cinema.
BANDE À PART / CERT: PG / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: JEAN-LUC GODARD / STARRING: ANNA KARINA, SAMI FREY, CLAUDE BRASSEUR, ERNEST MENZER / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW