Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Bande à part, part II

I did finally finish watching this movie. I thought that the movie was kind of strange. First the visuals. There were, repeatedly, shots that ran for a very long time in one stretch. And for most part they didn't seem to serve any purpose than that the director wanted to shoot these shots. It seemed as though there was a purpose in the movie -- Godard wanted to make the movie in a certain way rather than making a certain movie. The subject could have been something completely different and he would have probably been equally happy with it. The story was quite simple, if I try to narrate it.

Then there are the dialogues. Whether it is the background commentary or Franz reading from a book (happened to be called "Odile," same name as the character of Anna Kareina in the movie), they again seem to have almost no relation to the actual story of the movie. There is an eclectic mix of book-readings, background poetry, commentary and whole bunch of stuff that the director seems to have interjected into the movie purely because he thought it would be neat.

There are also references of all kinds. There is the book that Franz reads. In the middle of a reading of Romeo and Juliet, Arthur passes Odile a note that borrows from Hamlet, the two actors enact the killing of Bily the kid, the music director's credit shows up as "the last(?) score for a movie" by him, the last scene in the movie (on the ship) seemed somehow reminiscent of something one would see on a mushy postcard, completely unlike the rest of the movie, etc., etc. The movie seemed more like a puzzle than a movie.

Luckily for me, there was a section in the DVD called "The Loot." One of the chapters here covered the movie in detail and put together all the pieces in the movie that puzzled me. As it turns out, there were more references than what I had observed. The movie was definitely paying homage to a whole bunch of movies, books, incidents, advertisements -- the current time in general. There are several references to the book Odile and other books by the same author. Several places there are references to music in other movies of the time or by the same music director -- there seem to be more than one references to the The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. The last scene on the boat was apparently a homage to Charlie Chaplin movies. The Shakespeare references were acknowledged. There were still more. The characters were named after specific people of the times, or related to Godard. The poetry was by Arthur Rimbaud, a poet who had turned gun-runner in Ethiopea, and of course one of the lead characters was named Arthur Rimbaud.

At the end I felt as though I've just spent a couple of hours in a cinema class, being educated about Godard and Bande à part. Not that I minded, of course. I can understand why this movie would be loved by cinephiles. As I said earlier, it isn't one of the most accessible movies.

Then there was a reference that I'd like to imagine exists even if the DVD did not acknowledge it. The last dialogue in the movie compares the state of affairs to a "pulp novel," where nothing wanes (can't remember the entire thing). Given the fascination Tarantino has for this movie, maybe this is where he picked up the title for Pulp Fiction? When Kill Bill came out, it didn't hide the fact that it was paying homage to movies of various genres. The mood seems to be right from Bande à part. Kill Bill can spawn off a research into movies and can keep one engrossed for a very long time putting the pieces of the puzzle together. While Godard probably made references to things around him for most part, Tarantino wraps his arms around almost the entire history of cinema and wraps all genres into one movie, be it anime, western, samurai sword fights, yakuza movies, kung fu, blaxpoitation and many more.

It would be fun to be inside Tarantino's and Godard's heads and watch some of this stuff being created.

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