Bande à part

‘All you need to make a film is a girl and a gun’ was just one of Godard’s gnomic one-liners, and in Bande à part he provides a wonderful demonstration of how inventive and pleasing such a simple formula could prove to be. One of the most enjoyable and exuberant of the director’s works of the ’60s, this hip little movie concocts a gangster romance involving two guys and a girl, who ineptly attempt to burgle a house. The girl is of course played by Karina, whose image here is very different to the glamorous one presented in the earlier films. In Bande à part, the glamour is quite deliberately played down, often to comic effect: her hairstyle is ridiculed, her face made plain, and her body de-eroticised. When the narrator mentions her romantic kisses, what we remember is the comical, tongue-out-eyes-closed kiss she offers Arthur. To appreciate how romantic an image of Karina Godard could produce, see Alphaville.
France, 1964. English subtitles. Black and white. 95 min.

A special guest at this year’s CineFrance, Anna Karina is best known to lovers of French cinema for her work with Jean-Luc Godard in the 1960s, three examples of which will be shown in the festival. They were married for six years, and in many ways the films they made together appear to map out the paths they followed throughout their relationship, with Karina injecting emotion into the director’s intellectual framework. In films like Vivre sa vie, Alphaville and Pierrot le fou, Karina’s radiant self-sufficiency made for one of the most memorable portraits of a woman in French cinema of the ’60s. ‘Karina is always Anna, the ‘New Wave Bride’,’ wrote Roland-François Lack, ‘the model discovered, married and transformed into a star by Godard. He also made her an actress, and in each of their seven films elicited performances that were at once different and perfect.’
Born in Copenhagen, Karina had appeared in a couple of Danish shorts before she left home for Paris at the age of 17. She worked in commercials and as a model before meeting Godard. In fact, she turned down the female lead in À bout de souffle (Breathless) before taking up Godard’s second offer of a role in Le petit soldat in 1960. She also worked extensively for other directors during her time with Godard, and received great acclaim for her role in Jacques Rivette’s La Religieuse (1966). After the split with Godard, Karina appeared in a wide range of international films and tried her hand at directing with Vivre ensemble (Living Together) in 1973.

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