Bande a Part | 1964
Once again, Jean-Luc Godard finds his real locations on the streets of Paris, and again his film is by turns thrilling, infuriating, timelessly cool but always interesting. So cool and influential, in fact, that Quentin Tarantino named his production company, A Band Apart, after the film. Godard ’s response was typical: “He would have done better to give me some money."
The film opens with wannabe petty crooks Arthur (Claude Brasseur) and Franz (Sami Frey) driving east along Quai Fernand Saguet (Métro: Ecole Veterinaire de Maisons Alfort: Line 8: Creteil Prefecture), alongside the Marne in the southeastern suburbs of Paris. Although the area has been spruced up, with plenty of new building and a pleasant riverside path, you can still recognise much of the drive as the road becomes first rue du Maréchal Juin and then avenue du Maréchal Foch.
As the riverside drive becomes avenue du Maréchal Joffre, the lads stop at rue Condorcet to look across the Marne towards the Ile des Corbeaux at Saint-Maurice, and the house where Odile (Anna Karina) lives with her supposedly rich aunt.
Godard’s love/hate fascination with American culture is much in evidence. It’s on avenue du Maréchal Joffre, that Arthur and Franz indulge in a little actorly New Wave zaniness, acting out the shooting of Billy the Kid by Pat Garrett (the Paul Newman version, The Left-Handed Gun, naturally).
The bridge to Ile des Corbeaux is the Pont de Maisons-Alfort, linking the commune of Maisons-Alfort with Saint-Maurice.
The empty building site where the three drive around is now largely built up to become Les Fontaines de Saint-Maurice. You’ll recognise the church in front of which Franz dreams of driving at Indianapolis, l’Église des Saints Anges Gardiens de St Maurice, avenue J-F Belbéoch.
The café in which the three famously dance the Madison in the film’s signature scene, was at Porte de Vincennes.
Arthur, Franz and Odile are taking English lessons. On the way to the class, Arthur and Franz drive through the Place de la Bastille, past the Colonne de Juillet. A symbol of democracy, and the rallying place for political demonstrations, the column commemorates the July Revolution of 1830, three days of battle called ‘Les Trois Glorieuses’, which saw the overthrow of Charles X and the installation of Louis Phillipe.
The 504 people who died in this revolution were interred beneath the column – their names are inscribed on the column. Although there are 238 steps allowing access to the top of the column, this spiral stairway is no longer available to the public.
Odile, meanwhile, cycles along avenue Ledru-Rollin, past the Ledru-Rollin métro station, which remains pretty much unchanged. Even the Monoprix store at the junction with rue de Faubourg Saint Antoine is still in business.
The English class, ‘Loui’s Cours’, where the three meet up is 95 Rue du Faubourg Saint Antoine at Avenue Ledru-Rollin (Métro: Ledru-Rollin).
Franz buys Odile the book she reminds him of on the quai de Conti on the Left Bank of the Seine, by the Pont des Arts, still a good place to pick up second-hand books and prints.
To while away the time until the robbery, the three scamps try to break the record of the American tourist who ‘did’ the Louvre in nine minutes 45 seconds. They shave 2 seconds off the record by running through its galleries (not recommended), in a famous scene recreated in Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Dreamers.