‘Band of Outsiders’ is cinematic emblem of French New Wave icon Jean-Luc Godard

Band of Outsiders
Columbia Films/Courtesy

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The 1964 Jean-Luc Godard film, “Band of Outsiders,” has been called “a reverie of a gangster movie” by film critic Pauline Kael and “Alice in Wonderland meets Franz Kafka” by the director himself. The film follows three almost-gangsters trying to pull off an almost-heist, with all the foibles, romantic and otherwise, that come along with it. One of a slew of Godard films with this iconic French performer, “Band of Outsiders” features Anna Karina as the mousy and coy Odile, who meets two men in her English class and quickly hatches a scheme with them. 

With all the elements of a classic Godard film — odd humor, antiheroes, a captivating performance from Karina — “Band of Outsiders” is essential for those looking to get to know the iconic director. Along with all of Godard’s work in the 1960s, the film became a paradigm of the French New Wave style for its innovative style and romantic air. Not only that, but also, some of its scenes became iconic in the American film canon: American director Quentin Tarantino was inspired by the cafe dance scene in “Band of Outsiders” to create his own dance sequence with John Travolta and Uma Thurman in “Pulp Fiction.” 

Inspired by the westerns and noirs of old American Hollywood, Godard’s film has its fair share of action, too. In one scene, the three “gangsters” run through the Louvre Museum in nine minutes and 43 seconds, breaking the record of a somewhat sardonically named “Jimmy Johnson” from San Francisco. While the film is unafraid to touch on darker and more melancholic themes, it is these playful moments and tips of the proverbial hat that make Godard the legendary figure he is known as today. 

Contact Kate Tinney at [email protected]. Tweet her at @katetinney.