From the December 7, 2001 Chicago Reader. — J.R.
Band of Outsiders
Rating **** Masterpiece
Directed and written by Jean-Luc Godard
With Anna Karina, Claude Brasseur, Sami Frey, Daniele Girard, Louisa Colpeyn, and Ernest Menzer.
To gauge the historical significance of Jean-Luc Godard’s Band of Outsiders (1964) — getting a week’s run in a lovely new print at the Music Box — it helps to know that it was made four years after François Truffaut’s Shoot the Piano Player and three years before Arthur Penn’s Bonnie and Clyde. Both Band of Outsiders and Shoot the Piano Player are low-budget black-and-white French thrillers adapted from American crime novels translated into French for the celebrated Serie Noire collection, and they were abject box-office flops on both sides of the Atlantic — though today they embody the glories of the French New Wave in a good many people’s minds. By contrast, Bonnie and Clyde, a Hollywood movie in color that was profoundly influenced by these two films, was a huge success, and its lyrical depictions of violence changed the direction of American cinema.
All three films are mixtures of tragedy and farce, violence and romance, with an uncertain emotional tone. When Band of Outsiders and Shoot the Piano Player were first released, audiences didn’t know what to make of this mix, but when they saw Bonnie and Clyde they were exhilarated by its ambiguities.… Read more »