To hear Jean-Luc Godard tell it in the accompanying interview, his seventh film Band of Outsiders should be a terrible bore: made as a "systemic assault" on the myths of traditional French filmmaking, the young New Wave director set forth to break all the rules. Characters speak to the camera, minutes pass without any sound, and an intrusive narrator offers pointless "digressions" in the middle of the action. It is a testament to Godard's skills that Band of Outsiders, almost in spite of his intentions, is an eminently watchable and charming film.
Odile, Arthur, and Franz meet in English class. When the naïve girl (played by Godard's wife, the elfin Anna Karina) tells the boys about a big stash of money hidden in her foster parents' home, they want more than just to get inside her too-tight sweaters. Their heads full of B movie ideas, the three plot a heist.
Stuffed with film in-jokes and self-conscious nods, Band of Outsiders has a playful charm. It features the record for the quickest trip to the Louvre (9 minutes and 43 seconds), an impromptu dance that is worth the price of admission by itself, and a reenactment of the death of Billy the Kid. None of the antics can quite disguise how serious Godard is about rejuvenating the movies, and thirty years later, the wild innovation he brought to this pulpy story is still refreshing.
The Criterion Collection DVD release features a the restored Rialto re-release version of the film, interviews with Godard, Karina, and Raoul Coutard, a silent comedy by Agnes Varda starring Godard, a "visual glossary," and a booklet with essays, but no commentary track.