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Band of Outsiders(1964)
Three young people, Odile, Arthur and Frantz meet up at an English language class and become instant friends. They share an interest in literature and crime fiction. When Odile reveals that the house she is staying is loaded with loot, the three friends decide to stage a robbery. Of course, it all goes horribly wrong...
For more about Band of Outsiders and the Band of Outsiders Blu-ray release, see Band of Outsiders Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on April 22, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Starring: Anna Karina, Claude Brasseur, Danièle Girard, Sami Frey
Narrator: Jean-Luc Godard
Director: Jean-Luc Godard
» See full cast & crew
Band of Outsiders Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, April 22, 2013
Jean-Luc Godard's "Bande à part" a.k.a "Band of Outsiders" (1964) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion. The supplemental features on the disc include original trailers; visual glossary with explanations of the different references and quotes used in the film; video interviews with actress Anna Karina and legendary cinematographer Raoul Coutard; Agnes Varda's comedy "Les fiancés du pont Mac Donald"; and clips from Andre S. Labarthe's documentary La nouvelle vague par elle-meme. The release also arrives with and illustrated booklet featuring an essay by poet and critic Joshua Clover, Jean-Luc Godard's character descriptions for his film's 1964 press book, and an interview with the French director from the same year. In French, with optional English subtitles for the main feature. Region-A "locked".
Two young men in love with American gangster films decide to approach a beautiful girl to help them commit a robbery. Franz (Sami Frey, César et Rosalie, Mortelle randonnée), the taller and quieter one, has met the girl in his English class and determined that she would be easy to manipulate. Arthur (Claude Brasseur, The Mad Dog, A Simple Story), the louder and more direct one, trusts Franz and hopes that they will score enough so that he could finally pay back the money he owes to his obnoxious uncle.
Odile (Anna Karina, Vivre Sa Vie, Pierrot le fou), who is still single, is ready to help. But there is something about Franz and Arthur's plan that worries her - they are planning to rob her aunt (Louisa Colpeyn, Boomerang), with whom she lives on the outskirts of Paris. Odile also can't decide if after the robbery she should stay with her aunt or hit the road with the guys.
While working on the details, Franz and Arthur also entertain Odile. Franz tries to kiss her, but she warms up to Arthur, possibly because he seems more like a guy that can be trusted. The even three go dancing and then visit the Louvre – not to marvel its art collections but to run through it as fast as they can and break the previous record set by an American visitor.
Franz and Arthur also show Odile how real men drive real cars - like the tough men in those great American gangster films they like. But Odile does not understand what the big deal is. To her everything looks a little crazy, a little boring.
Eventually, Franz and Arthur agree that the right time for the robbery has come and instruct Odile exactly what to do when they appear in her aunt's lavish house. Odile tries to play her role as best as she can, but when the two friends arrive, both with stockings covering their faces, she panics. Odile's aunt also reacts in a way that surprises everyone – she can't figure out if the boys are serious about robbing her. Then one of them stuffs a handkerchief in her mouth.
Loosely based on a novel by Dolores Hitchens called Fool's Gold, Band of Outsiders is arguably Jean-Luc Godard's most straightforward film. It tells a very simple story with a certain style and does not satirize as much as some of the French director's other films from the same period do.
The three characters in the film are deeply flawed. Some of their flaws are linked to the environment they share and the culture that sustains it. For example, Franz and Arthur are fixated on money and led to believe that success – in this case, a successful robbery – will exonerate their foolish actions. Odile is too naïve and unaware, possibly because of the closeted bourgeois-esque life she has led, that the real world is like a dangerous labyrinth, a place with plenty of slippery roads where one could easily get lost.
The film's greatest moment is the famous Madison dance. Franz, Arthur, and Odile end up in a small bistro and give a dance number that is both casual and unusually stylish. This is the only time when the three are in sync. Elsewhere in the film, they are complete amateurs trying to be a team (or as the film's French title, Bande a part, suggests, a band). Because they constantly fail, Godard often cuts the music or silences the dialogue and quickly explains what their intentions are, how they feel, what they think about each other.
Godard and the great cinematographer Raoul Coutard (Shoot the Piano Player, Le mépris, Z) shot Band of Outsiders over twenty-five days. The dialog was almost completely improvised. Only the dance sequence required multiple rehearsals at various bars across Paris.
Band of Outsiders Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Jean-Luc Godard's Band of Outsiders arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of French distributors Gaumont.
The following text appears inside the booklet provided with this Blu-ray release:
"This 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 35mm composite fine grain at Eclair Laboratories in Epinay-sur-Seine, France. The original monaural soundtrack was restored from a 35mm optical soundtrack positive.
Transfer supervisor: Ronald Boullet/Eclair Laboratories, Epinay-sur-Seine, France.
Colorist: Hedi Nakkaa/Eclair Laboratories, Epinay-sur-Seine, France."
This new release of Band of Outsiders, which uses as a foundation Gaumont's recent restoration of the film, confirms that various light denoising corrections were performed on the high-definition transfer the French release uses (read our review of Gaumont's release here). The effects of these corrections were extremely easy to see during a number of close-ups. On the French release there are also various traces of light sharpening corrections, many of which are indeed quite distracting. The same denoising and sharpening corrections do not appear on the Criterion release. For example, compare screencapture #13 with screencapture #9 from our review of the French release where the denoising is quite obvious. Now compare screenapture #12 with screencapture #8 from our review of the French release where the sharpening corrections are quite prominent. More importantly, the smearing (light motion blur) from the French release is also missing. Contrast and color saturation, however, are virtually identical. The blacks are stable while the grays and whites are well balanced. Clarity is very pleasing, especially during the larger panoramic shots (see screencaptures # 5 and 17). Also, there are no large debris, damage marks, or cuts. Some extremely light compression artifacts, however, occasionally pop up here and there. Very light banding also sneaks in. Regardless, this is clearly the better of the two English-friendly releases of Band of Outsiders currently available on the market. (Note: This is a Region-A "locked" Blu-ray release. Therefore, you must have a native Region-A or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
Band of Outsiders Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There is only one standard audio track on this Blu-ray disc: French LPCM 1.0. For the record, Criterion have provided optional English subtitles for the main feature.
The lossless track serves the film very well. The narration and the dialog are as crisp as they are on Gaumont's Blu-ray release. Michel Legrand's soundtrack also benefits from the lossless treatment, but the overall range of nuanced dynamics is indeed limited. There are no audio dropouts or distortions to report in this review. The English translation is excellent.
Band of Outsiders Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Band of Outsiders Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Criterion's Blu-ray release of Jean-Luc Godard's Band of Outsiders is clearly the one to own. It uses as a foundation Gaumont's recent restoration of the film, but the technical presentation is indeed more convincing. French speaking fans of the film with Region-Free players, however, will probably want to purchase Gaumont's Blu-ray release as well because it contains a number of new and exclusive video interviews. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
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Band of Outsiders Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Criterion Announces May Titles - February 15, 2013
The Criterion Collection has announced five titles for Blu-ray release in May. On May 7th, the studio will release Jean-Luc Godard's Band of Outsiders (1964). On My 14th, it will release Delmer Daves' Jubal (1956) and 3:10 to Yuma (1957). A week later, it will ...
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