Band of Outsiders ★★★★

I don't know what exactly it is that makes Paris the best city in cinema. Maybe it's the constant sense of motion as characters forever weave their way through sub-lethal speeds of traffic and crowded sidewalks. Could be the laconic spirit that infuses its denizens to the point that everyone is just cooler for hanging out there. Part of it might be the way that the tasteful Old World architecture framing the Seine makes it seem appropriate to lazily philosophize over a cigarette. Whatever it is, it's certainly the right place for this film.

What's funny about this film is that it's a hybrid of a heist picture and a slacker movie. The stakes are so comically low until the very end that Jean-Luc Godard is free to meander around the city with his characters; an anti-charmer (Claude Brasseur), a phlegmatic ne'er-do-well (Sami Frey), and the group's unassumingly beautiful muse (Anna Karina) for their plan to rip off a corrupt government official, whenever they feel like getting around to it. The rivalry between Arthur and Franz for Odile's company is free from overwrought nonsense, and hilariously Gallic in its spirit of "eh, that's the way she goes." A film spending as much time as this one does in the carefree zone, driving around town in the rain talking about books, shouldn't logically end the way that it does. But it fits anyway. People finally get around to the whole "life changing course of events" stuff because eh, I guess we have to. Nicely emblematic.

The entire sequence early on in the café is fantastic. Not just for the famous dance scene, which is great, but the constant shuffling in place between the three seats and the movement of drinks on the table. It's a great bit of underplayed, extended physical comedy that speaks to a sort of street performer wisdom that Godard has. By making a film where these three characters can knock around for a little while and be themselves, he's opened an avenue for an interlude in the film that serves as a sort of mini-vaudeville routine, an unexpected little bit of entertainment that's quite different in mood from the rest of affairs but still fits the whole.

Another memorable bit of French cinematic jazz.

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