2 or 3 Things I Know About Her (1967)

This film may be Jean-Luc Godard at his least accessible. 2 or 3 Things I Know About Her is the lucid journey through the experiences of French women in the 1960s. There is virtually no plot, just a series of scenes with her children and at work as a prostitute; blended in with all of this are scenes of other women in this line of work.

This “story” is told in a very interesting manner though, flowing between all these scenes and strung together by the whispers of an omnipresent male narrator as well as the women occasionally breaking the fourth wall and speaking to us directly. In addition, prostitution serves as an interesting metaphor; these are all women who appear to be middle-class, yet they are apparently forced into this lifestyle of exploitation by men.

This creates the gender divide recurring throughout the film. The women do what they need to in order to make ends meet, including resorting to prostitution. Meanwhile, the men often have their heads in the clouds, focusing on international politics or theory, lacking the practical “skill” the women employ.

I could follow the film through this much, but on top of this there was clearly a critical commentary on consumer culture and capitalism; it was hard for me to understand its place in all the action though, and the reversion to this theme made the end product seem a bit bloated to me, as if Godard tried to bite off more than he could chew.

This movie certainly reflects Godard’s effort to surge into more serious territory, particularly gender politics. 2 or 3 Things I Know About Her isn’t for everybody, but it is good viewing for Godard aficionados. Most Americans (myself included) aren’t very conscious of representations of feminism in other countries, so this film is particularly illuminating.

Band of Outsiders (1964)

One of the most undeniably cool movies I’ve seen, Band of Outsiders by Jean-Luc Godard is the story of three young adults who scheme to rob a neighbor. Everything that takes is by chance, including their friendship by ending up in a class together and the woman (played to vulnerable excellence by Anna Karina) who accidentally slipped to her boyfriend that a fellow tenant in her apartment building is loaded.

Like you’d expect from Godard, though, this is a classic case of style over substance. As meaty as the story is, the Band gets its bite from its filmmaking techniques; the black-and-white imagery of a bleak home accompanied by melancholy music foils the outrageous fun of the famous Madison dance scene in which the three heroes dance to a (possibly imaginary) R&B song.

This high contrast makes the pacing uneven at times, swirling between quiet moments of plotting with high-intensity crime, but that’s probably the point. These are individuals who are clearly uncomfortable and not equipped to pull something like this off, so it’s uncomfortable for us the audience to watch them.

The icing on the cake is in the final scene; as characters drive off, their discussion recaps what essentially the theme of the film is. There is a dialogue on the nature of humanity, whether we are even meant to band together, or if we are always individuals at heart, ready to break apart.

This concept is reflective both of the French New Wave as well as this film’s overall influence by American culture; the sense of individual over the community is a pretty groundbreaking idea in 1960s French cinema, reminding us how groundbreaking this film and the ideas it presents really are.

As almost a middle ground between the more thrilling Breathless and the more lighthearted and comedic A Woman is a WomanBand of Outsidersmay be the ultimate Godard film, seamlessly blending his humor with cold-hearted intensity.