Notes on “Band of Outsiders”

Fabrizio del Wrongo writes:

Three Parisian kids with vaguely American aspirations plan a vaguely American crime. That crime, a robbery, is mixed up with the seduction of Odile, the trio’s female constituent, who isn’t sure she wants either. You can’t blame her: These guys are as inept at love as they are at theft. In a sense, it’s a movie about ineptness. Like the hero of writer-director Jean-Luc Godard’s earlier “Breathless,” the kids are amalgamations of attitudes drawn from books and movies; though they run through the Louvre, stopping to look at nothing (we’re told it’s an American thing), they can do the Madison almost without thinking and have internalized the plots of Hollywood B movies. They aren’t malevolent like Cocteau’s “Enfants Terribles,” but like them they’re playing with half-understood archetypes — and with death. As in so much of Godard there’s a sense, both tragic and melancholy, of life and art being out of sync. Here, though, art is less an ideal than a posture, and there’s something touching about the trio’s failure to comprehend the absurdity of aspiring to a pose. The movie’s Paris is tenuous, a place of indefinite season, filled with bare trees and mud. We sense that spring, like the crime being planned, might not come off.  Like most of the great New Wave films, “Band of Outsiders” has an astonishing vividness. Ordinary subjects — Anna Karina as Odile riding a bike and pertly signaling a turn with her hand, the boys’ jalopy tearing around a puddled yard — have unaccountable poetic power. It’s as though Godard, through his manner of seeing, has allowed novelty to recolonize the mundane. (The cinematography is by Raoul Coutard.) When, near the end, the boys break into the house they’ve targeted, we recognize it as a kind of rape. They’ve used Odile to gain entry, and suddenly she’s a victim rather than a playmate. When they demand that she remove her stockings so that they can use them as masks, it’s too intimate to be erotic. One of them sniffs it as he puts it on. The other says, “Her thighs are so white.” The reply: “I saw.” When she encounters them again, their faces obscured by stocking, it’s as though they’re different people — fugitives from some other movie. 

About Fabrizio del Wrongo

Recovering liberal arts major. Unrepentant movie nut. Aspiring boozehound.
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