director: Jean-Luc Godard
I saw Bande à part at the Castro Theater, I want to say, 10-11 years ago and I was really taken with it. When shortly thereafter, it came out on Criterion Collection DVD, I bought it and then never watched it. I loaned it out to several people, offered it as a recommendation, called it my favorite Jean-Luc Godard film.
In recommending it again, I wound up watching it for the first time in years with a couple of friends. It’s strange and surprising how much of the general imagery stayed imprinted in my brain over that time (and over the many other films that I’ve seen in the interim).
Made in 1964, as part of Godard’s earliest output of films, his Nouvelle Vague period, it’s considered his most accessible film, and to some, that might sound like a criticism. Godard’s films are often defined less by pleasure than they are by challenge. Rupturing the traditions of narrative cinema (in which the process of story-telling, the camera, all awareness of the experience are all crafted out of the viewer’s experience) is foregrounded. Narrative film, besides drawing one in and inducing the pleasures of the process, also allows pathways for ideological information to be delivered in a subconscious or unconscious way. In other words, rupture is a political process, and for Godard, sometimes his films are more political than narrative.
The fact that Bande à part revels a bit more in the joy of cinema isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Ruptures are used for fun as well as social commentary, such as the noted “minute of silence” in the film, or the breaks in the music and narration during the dance sequence. The pleasures stretch beyond narrative, extending to simple visual pleasure. And no visual pleasure is quite as keen in Bande à part as the wondrous visage of Anna Karina. She’s as beautiful in this film as in any she ever made. And it’s a grand pleasure to see the Paris and the cafes of the early 1960’s, inducing in me a wish that I could travel not only to the continent but back to that time and place.
Since I saw Bande à part at the Castro all those years ago, I’ve seen a number of other films of Godard and I’ve come to like more and more of his work. I was struck that Une femme est une femme (1961) would be a companion piece to Bande à part. I also was struck so much by Pierrot le fou (1965), so now I have a couple of favorites of Godard films. And I still have a lot left to see.