Crime drama of French New Wave movement: Alice in Wonderland meets Franz Kafka.

band-of-outsiders-movie-poster-1966-1020280747Two weeks after meeting Odile Monod (Anna Karina) in an English class at Loui’s School in Paris, Franz (Sami Frey), wearing a fedora and driving his Simca, tells his pal Arthur Remouleux (Claude Brasseur), a cap upon his head, about her (“She’s a looker”) having said she resides in a villa outside the city in Joinville with her aunt and a wealthy man who keeps a pile of cash in his unlocked bedroom. From a distance the pair checkouts the property as they plot a burglary.

They kid around as Pat Garrett shooting Billy the Kid in 1891 and spin the car around in mud, pretending to be racecar drivers. During the English lesson with all three in attendance, the teacher (Danièle Girard) assigns them the task of translating into English as she reads dramatically from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet: “And Juliet bleeding, warm and newly dead, who here hath lain these two days buried. Go, tell the prince. We see the ground whereon these woes do lie, but the true ground which we cannot without circumstances descry.”

Arthur, after passing notes to Odile, during the break, recommends that she drop the course and become a nurse so that she could poison some rich old fogey for his money. She bicycles; they all smoke cigarettes. As the two young men drive Odile home, she says that wasn’t serious about Mr Stolz having a horde of cash and that their idea of stealing it is crazy.

Based on American author Dolores Hitchens’s novel, Fools’ Gold, screenwriter/director Jean-Luc “Cinéma” Godard, who narrates in the film, described his crime drama of the French New Wave movement (which I’ll add to my Truffaut trousseau) as “Alice in Wonderland meets Franz Kafka,” “with the last (?) score ever written for the screen by Michel LeGrand.”

Franz and Arthur read aloud newspaper stories of domestic violence and murders, including an item: “Rwanda’s rivers are choked with the bodies of 20,000 victims” from Hutus killing their former masters, the Tutsis. “Still, I wonder why she told me,” Franz muses. “She’s not all there,” replies Arthur.

Never before having been inside Mr Stolz’s bedroom, Odile enters and opens a cabinet to find a large cache of 10,000-franc notes. In a café with Arthur and Franz, who suspect Stolz has stolen government money, Odile drinks Coca-Cola, asks them to grasp one of two glass bubbles on a rod to test if either loves her, dances (wearing Franz’s fedora) along with the two young men, bopping apart and snapping fingers and clapping hands, to a jazzy tune.

“Franz thinks of everything and nothing,” says the narrator: “He wonders if the world is becoming a dream or if the dream is becoming the world.” Arthur tosses a coin to see who gets to stroll with Odile; Franz drives around alone. She and Arthur go to a shooting gallery and onto the subway train where Odile sings a song about ordinary people with whom she can relate.

Arthur’s uncle accosts him about getting the loot when he returns home, Franz having blabbed about the money. With no time to lose now before his uncle takes matters into his own hands, Arthur says they have to act tonight.

Expecting Odile will be forced into talking afterward while trying to convince her to flee to South America with him – “You’ll give us away,” Franz accuses – she replies adamantly: “I’ll never give you away. Neither of you. Never.” Arthur recommends that they “wait till nightfall in keeping with the tradition of bad B movies.”

To kill time, they race through the Louvre in less than 9 minutes and 45 seconds (previous record set by an American) and drive across bridges, though by the time they reach the villa, having directed Odile to remove her black stockings (revealing her white thighs) for masks, it’s still daylight. Unexpectedly, Mr Stolz’s bedroom door is locked. Seated on the lawn, Odile watches with the dog as Franz and Arthur attempt to enter the upper-story room via a ladder.

Frustrated, the two desperate young men decide to return the next day, Arthur treating Odile roughly and threatening Madame Victoria (Louisa Colpeyn) with a gun to obtain the bedroom key before gagging and tying her up. But the money’s missing. It’s a tragedy (for two characters in a gunfight) with a happy ending for a pair of star-cross’d lovers.

***

Band of Outsiders is available at UW’s Coe Library.

Patrick is a regular contributor to Laramie Movie Scope. See many more reviews of his at: http://www.lariat.org/AtTheMovies/old/others.html

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