Second Time Around

Band of Outsiders
One of Jean-Luc Godard's most enjoyable films, Bande a Part (to use its French title) slipped out in 1964, a casual, throwaway work in between the more ambitious Contempt and Alphaville. While Godard -- the most aggressively experimental of the New Wave brethren -- was known in this period as a witty scrambler of cinematic convention, he also possessed an uncanny ability to capture the look and feel of a gritty gray Paris and its environs, and the charm and confusion of the twentysomethings roaming around inside of it. That's the heart of the appeal of this film and others like it from this period (Vivre sa Vie, Masculin-Feminin): priceless scenes like a young couple dashing through the Louvre in a couple of minutes. The plot is loosely drawn from an American crime thriller, as two layabouts flirt with a young woman while hatching a plan to rob her home. As Pauline Kael commented at the time, it's "like a reverie of a gangster movie as students in an espres-so bar might remember it or plan it." As such it has an endearing appeal to film students everywhere: Quentin Tarantino's production company is named "Band Apart" after this film, with Uma Thurman's hairstyle in Pulp Fiction prefigured by Anna Karina's here. Both films also have terrific, spontaneous dances in cafes, but Godard's "Madison" sequence is broken up by the thoughts of his threesome as they dance. What this film's really about are those thoughts, the texture of Paris nights, the childish quality of the two punks, their horse-blanket sweaters, love and death, and the doe-eyed Karina -- an innocent way in over her head.

-- Gregg Rickman

Band of Outsiders screens daily at 9:15 p.m. (with Hal Hartley's Simple Men at 7:15 p.m.) from Sunday through Tuesday, May 17-19, at the Fine Arts Cinema, 2451 Shattuck (at Haste) in Berkeley. Band also screens at 5:30 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets are $6; call (510) 848-1143.

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