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Band of Outsiders – The Criterion Collection #174 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

May 9, 2013 by  



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I enjoyed the playfulness, the youthfulness and how entertaining the film came to be. As well as it began to transition to include the more darker undertones. “Band of Outsiders” is just an accessible and enjoyable  film by Jean-Luc Godard and this new Blu-ray release featuring the 2010 Gaumont restoration features much better picture quality with better detail, contrast and looks so much better than its 2008 DVD counterpart!  Definitely worth the upgrade if you owned the DVD and recommended on Blu-ray!

Image are courtesy of © 1964 Gaumont.  2013 The Criterion Collection. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Band of Outsiders – The Criterion Collection #174

YEAR OF FILM: 1964

DURATION: 95 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:33:1 aspect ratio, Black and White, Monaural in French with English Subtitles

COMPANY: Janus Films/THE CRITERION COLLECTION

RELEASE DATE: May 7, 2013

Based on the novel “Fools’ Gold” by Dolores Hitchens

Directed by Jean-Luc Godard

Music by Michel Legrand

Cinematography by Raoul Coutard

Edited by Francoise Collin, Dahlia Ezove, Agnes Guillemot

Starring:

Anna Karina as Odile

Sami Frey as Franz

Claude Brasseur as Arthur

Daniele Girard as English Teacher

Louisa Colpeyn as Madame Victoria

Chantal Darget as Arthur’s Aunt

Georges Staquet as Le Legionnaire

Ernest Menzer as Arthur’s Uncle

Narration by Jean-Luc Godard

Four years after Breathless, Jean-Luc Godard reimagined the gangster film even more radically with BAND OF OUTSIDERS. In it, two restless young men (Sweet Movie’s Sami Frey and Eyes Without a Face’s Claude Brasseur) enlist the object of both of their fancies (Pierrot le fou’s Anna Karina) to help them commit a robbery—in her own home. This audacious and wildly entertaining French New Wave gem is at once sentimental and insouciant, effervescently romantic and melancholy, and it features some of Godard’s most memorable set pieces, including the headlong race through the Louvre and the unshakeably cool Madison dance sequence.

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In 1964, French New Wave director Jean-Luc Godard went to work on his latest film “Bande à part” (Band of Outsiders) which was created with a small budget at around $125,000 and unlike his previous film “Contempt” which was in full color, Godard decided to go back to basics by filming in black and white and also to avoid any interjecting of politics in the film and thus many critics have called it Godard’s most accessible film because it s quite different from many of the films he has directed in the 1960′s.

“Band of Outsiders” is a film based on the novel “Fools’ Gold” by American author Dolores Hitchens and a film which Godard describes “Band of Outsiders” as “Alice in Wonderland meets Franz Kafka”. For many critics, they like to call the film a B-Noir in which the film contains noir elements but also other elements of humor and things that you would see from a French New Wave film. When it first came out in theaters in the US, not many people could understand the concept of the film and thus it didn’t do well in the theaters. But now as the film is 46-years-old, publications such as Time Magazine has selected “Band of Outsiders” as part of its “All Time 100 Movies”.

In 2008, “Band of Outsiders” was released on DVD courtesy of The Criterion Collection and now, the HD version of the film featuring Gaumont’s 2010 high-definition restoration with uncompressed monaural soundtrack was released on Blu-ray courtesy of the Criterion Collection in May 2013.

“Band of Outsiders” revolves around two wannabe criminals Arthur (Claude Brasseur) and Franz (Sami Frey). Franz who attends an English class with a young woman named Odile (Anna Karina) is told by her that a large amount of money is stashed in the villa that she lives at with her Aunt and Mr. Stoltz. Because of this, Franz has told his friend Arthur about it and immediately, Arthur sees this as an opportunity to make some money and knows that in order to make this happen, he must first gain the trust of Odile. So, Franz takes Arthur to meet her at the English class and immediately, Arthur does what he can to make Odile know that he’s interested in her.

Franz has been attracted to Odile for quite some time but because he’s so shy, he never really had the opportunity to get close to her. But Arthur has much more experience with women and immediately, uses his bad boy charm to attract Odile’s affections and thus gets her to ditch her English class and for her to join him for the day in order for him to learn from her about how much more money is inside the villa. With Odile, hooked to Arthur’s words, when she goes home she happens to finds so much money that when she tells Arthur and Franz, immediately the two start planning on how they can steal the money.

But Odile tells them to wait a few days but with Arthur having problems with other people demanding some money immediately from him, he is forced to steal the money sooner than Odile is expecting.

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VIDEO:

I gave the 2008 DVD review a positive when it comes to picture quality, but with this restored version courtesy of Gaumont’s 2010 restoration of the film, “Band of Outsiders” in HD definitely surpasses its original DVD version in clarity, detail and contrast.  The film is not soft or blurry, you can actually see much better detail in the clothing, well-contrast within the whites and grays of the film and black levels which are inky and deep.

According to the Criterion Collection, the digital master came from a restoration undertaken by Gaumont in 2010.  For the restoration, a high-definition digital transfer was created on a Spirit Datacine from a 35 mm composite fine grain at Eclair Laboratories in Epinay-sur-Seine, France.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Band of Outsiders” is presented in French monaural LPCM. According to the Criterion Collection,  The original monaural soundtrack was restored from a 35 mm optical soundtrack positive.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

The “Band of Outsiders” comes with the following special features:

  • Visual Glossary – (17:58) Featuring selected quotations from “Band of Outsiders” and an explanation of the quotation.
  • Godard 1964 – (5:17) Featuring Jean-Luc Godard talking about Nouvelle Vague and its Raison D’Etre with filmmaker Andre S. LAbarthe for the documentary “La Nouvelle Vague Par Elle-Meme”.
  • Anna Karina – (18:26) Featuring an interview with Anna Karina, recorded in 2002.  Karina talks about loving films, working with Jean-Luc Godard, Raoul Coutard, running into Claude Brasseur and more.
  • Raoul Coutard – (11:00) Featuring an interview with Raoul Coutard discussing his work with Jean-Luc Godard, the challenges he had in shooting complicated scenes, the French New Wave and more.
  • Les Fiances Du Pont Mac Donald – Featuring the short directed by Agnes Varda (used on Agnes’ 1962 film “Cleo From 5 to 7″) starring Jean-Luc Godard, Anna Karina, Sami Frey, Daniele Girard and more.
  • Trailers – Featuring the original and the re-release trailer for “Band of Outsiders”.

EXTRAS:

“Band of Outsiders” comes with a 26-page booklet which includes the essay “Get Your Madis On” by Joshua Clover, “The Characters According to Godard” from the original press book and “No Questions Asked” featuring an interview between Godard and Godard critic Jean Collet from 1964.

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“The Band of Outsiders” is a charming and enjoyable film. Is it my favorite Godard film, I would still have to give the title of “My Godard Favorite” to his 1965 film “Pierrot Le Fou” but I will say that “Band of Outsiders” manages to pull me in with its various scenes and its interesting plot. Needless to say that many Godard fans enjoy the film and even prompted Quentin Tarentino to name his production company “A Band Apart” after the French title “Bande à part”.

The title of the film “Band of Outsiders” is about these three individuals who are outsiders. From the two male characters named after Godard’s favorite authors Arthur Rimbaud and Franz Kafka, Arthur is a player and obviously have some experience breaking the law and schmoozing with women, while Franz is the silent type who you can tell is not so comfortable when his friend actually starts to win Odile’s heart. And as for Odile, an innocent girl with not much experience with being around men and she is very much a different person from these two men. When Arthur asks for a kiss with a tongue, her inexperience shows as she sticks out her tongue. But it’s how these three individuals react to each other, you wonder how in the heck can these three people get mixed up together?

But perhaps that was the winning combination that made this film work as the three characters manage to keep you’re eyes glued to the screen. Not knowing what are going to happen to them but knowing that with director Jean-Luc Godard, anything can happen and for the most part, if you submit your 95 minutes to Godard, you’re definitely in for a wild ride. The ending might be a bit bumpy but the actual ride is where you feel satisfaction as you will encounter quite a few surprises, twists and turns and that is how I feel about “Band of Outsiders”.

From Odile (Karina) looking directly to the camera when asking a question, to the moment of silence which almost seems like an eternity but at the same time, you can’t help but be amused by it. From the playfulness of Arthur and Franz play shooting each other and my two favorite scenes, when the three individuals take part in the “Madison dance” and the Louvre scene in which the three try to break the American Jimmy Johnson’s record of how fast they can see all the art inside the Louvre. How fun is that? So, I was quite amused to see that scene but really enjoyed the various scenes that just stick to your memory (a lot of Godard films tend to do that for me).

But the creation of “Band of Outsiders” was somewhat of Godard’s comeback at the time (one of many).  After the beating he took for the film “Les Carabiniers”, Godard decided to work together with his wife Anna Karina (both had separated at the time) and the first time the two worked together since “Vivre sa vie”.  But it was a tough time for both husband and wife who were having problems in their marriage, but it was also a film that helped the two grow closer to each other.

Many will take notice that Karina looks different in this film compared to other films and that is because the film was shot after she came out of the hospital after a suicide attempt.  But because of this film, Karina credits “Band of Outsiders” of saving her life.

For Godard, “Band of Outsiders” gave the filmmaker a chance to try something different and whether or not he succeeded or failed depends on the viewer as the film today is seen as one of Godard’s best, but at the time of screening at various film festivals, the film infuriated audiences and also previous Godard defenders, film critics who had problems with the film.  The film also gave Jean-Luc a chance to name a character after his mother (who died in a scooter accident ten years earlier).

While a low budget film, the film was enjoyed by film critics all over the world, as film critic Richard Brody would lend to the film’s ongoing popularity due to the film’s “overt neo-classicism” but Brody writes in his book “Everything is Cinema”, that the failed experiment was trying to separate “instinctive” and “reflective” elements.  The result was failure and so he would come back to combine the elements once again.

As for this Blu-ray release, “Band of Outsiders” looks so much better in HD after the restoration.  No longer soft or even blurry, the film shows much more detail, much better contrast and a cleaner picture.  Also, you get an uncompressed monaural soundtrack and all six special features that were included on the original 2008 DVD release.

Overall, I enjoyed the playfulness, the youthfulness and how entertaining the film came to be, as well as it began to transition to include more darker undertones. But the film is quite entertaining and I had a fun time watching it. Although there are other films I Godard/Anna Karina films I recommend watching before “Band of Outsiders”, the film is still worth having on your checklist of must-see Godard films.

Definitely recommended!

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