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Bande à part(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 Bande à part and the Bande à part Blu-ray release, see Bande à part Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on October 19, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Anna Karina, Claude Brasseur, Danièle Girard, Sami Frey
Narrator: Jean-Luc Godard
Director: Jean-Luc Godard
» See full cast & crew
Bande à part Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, October 19, 2012
Jean-Luc Godard's "Bande a part" a.k.a "Band of Outsiders" (1964) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of French distributors Gaumont. The supplemental features on the disc include an original French trailer for the film as well as a gallery of interviews with actress Anna Karina, director Claude Chabrol, writer and critic Antoine de Baecque, writer Denitza Bantcheva, and critic and director Alexandre Astruc. In French, with optional English and French SDH subtitles for the main feature. Region-B "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.
Bande à part 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.
I have mixed feelings about the presentation. It could have been spectacular, but it is decent at best. Earlier this year I noticed that Gaumont started applying minor noise corrections on many of their Blu-ray releases. The majority of them were easy to tolerate. However, on Band of Outsiders the denoising, though extremely light, is quite easy to spot. Most close-ups (see screencapture #9) as well as selected panoramic shots (see screencapture #16) look soft and even flat. Occasionally, during quick camera zooms light smearing is also present. I suspect that most viewers probably will not be bothered by these side effects, but I am also convinced that there will be a good number of sensitive viewers that will be distracted by them. Black levels have also been slightly elevated, but the overall balance with the grays and whites is relatively good. Edge-enhancement is not a serious issue of concern, but it is obvious that light sharpening corrections have been applied as well (see screencapture #4). There are no serious compression or stability issues. Large damage marks, debris, splices or cuts are nowhere to be seen. All in all, while Gaumont's release of Band of Outsiders is very clearly a step up in terms of quality, as far as I am concerned it does not have the consistent organic look it should have had. (Note: This is a Region-Free Blu-ray disc. However, its main menu is encoded in 1080/50i. Because only a few players in North America can playback 1080/50i content, and the PS3 is not one of them, this means that the overwhelming majority of players will not be able to access the main feature. Therefore, the disc is flagged in the database as Region-B "locked").
Bande à part Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There is only one standard audio track on this Blu-ray disc: French DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0. For the record, Gaumont have provided optional English and French SDH subtitles for the main feature.
The narration and the dialog are clean, crisp, and stable. The soundtrack by legendary composer Michel Legrand also gets a decent boost, though you should not expect to a hear a wide range of nuanced dynamics. The famous dance scene in the bar, however, definitely sounds fuller and better rounded, while elsewhere in the film the gunshots are crisper. The English translation is very good.
Bande à part Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Bande à part Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
I have mixed feelings about this French release of Jean-Luc Godard's Band of Outsiders. It could have been spectacular, but as far as I am concerned it is only decent. Clearly, it represents a step up in quality over previous home video releases of the film, but it is also quite obvious that some corrections have been applied to the high-definition transfer it uses that should have been avoided. As a result, the film does not have the consistent organic look that it should have. If you are interested in adding it to your collections, my advice to you is to find a way to rent it first and see if the corrections bother you. Also, if you reside in North America and wish to import the release, please make sure that your player can playback 1080/50i content. This is a Region-Free Blu-ray disc, but its main menu is encoded in 1080/50i. Because only a few players in North America can playback 1080/50i content, and the PS3 is not one of them, this means that the overwhelming majority of players will not be able to access the main feature.
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