Bande à Part (Band of Outsiders) (1964)

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Released 9-Oct-2006

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Main Menu Audio
Audio Commentary-On Fragments Of Bande a Part By Rolando Caputo
Gallery-Image
Theatrical Trailer-And Re-Release Theatrical Trailer
Trailer-The Bicycle Thief, Jules & Jim, The Children Of Paradise
Trailer-Jean Du Florette
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1964
Running Time 92:00
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Jean-Luc Godard
Studio
Distributor

Umbrella Entertainment
Starring Anna Karina
Danièle Girard
Louisa Colpeyn
Chantal Darget
Sami Frey
Claude Brasseur
Georges Staquet
Ernest Menzer
Jean-Claude Rémoleux
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $29.95 Music Jean Ferrat
Michel Legrand


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame French Dolby Digital 1.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio Unknown Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

    It is perhaps no surprise that Quentin Tarantino named his production company after this 1964 Jean-Luc Godard film, for it contains everything so obviously dear to Tarantino's heart: a crime drama mixed with a love story, interesting juxtaposition of music and action as well as seemingly unmotivated dialogue.

    Bande A Part (Band of Outsiders), based upon a 1958 novel, is in many ways quintessential Jean-Luc Godard. It is also one of his more accessible works.

The band of outsiders of the title are Franz (Sami Frey), Arthur (Claudee Brasseur) and Odile (Anna Karina). Odile is a naive young woman. She is taking an English language course when she meets Franz. We find out that she has recently told Franz that her guardians in Paris keep a large amount of money in an upstairs room. Franz tells Arthur and soon these two young men form a plan to rob the house with Odile's assistance.

    She is initially drawn to Franz but the raw animal instinct of Arthur draws her away. Although it carries the plot outlines of a heist drama (with the ill-fated heist occurring at the end) the film is really about the love triangle between the three. The real question is which of them she will ultimately choose to love.

    Another attraction for Tarantino is no doubt the fact that the heist itself is poorly conceived and doomed from the start to fail. Although it is definitely not a comedy, there are some funny moments such as when the would-be thieves find the bedroom door locked and have to get a ladder out of the garage so that they can enter via an upstairs window. In another first that Tarantino emulated in Reservoir Dogs, Godard shoots the long heist scene away from the main action, in the downstairs living room to be precise, with the characters meeting up there after each attempt has failed.

    As with many of Godard's works, Bande A Part is riddled with cultural references. In the interesting commentary included on this DVD, lecturer Roland Caputo points out that Godard set up many of his shots as homages to movies he considered great American films, notwithstanding that they were largely B pictures. He suggests that in a way filmmakers like Tarantino have stolen back from Godard that which he took from the American B film makers.

    Bande A Part is famous for several scenes. These include a moment when the characters, bored with each other's conversation, decide to observe a minute's silence. The sound completely drops out of the film and although it is not quite a minute the effect is quite startling. Further, there is another scene where the characters try to beat the world record for running through the Louvre. Finally, in one of the most famous scenes in all of Godard's films, the trio spontaneously dance a Madison (a line dance which children of the 60's would probably know better when it morphed into the Nut Bush of the 70's!). Apparently the cast were required to attend dancing classes each afternoon for 3 weeks, something de rigueur for Hollywood, but unusual for Godard who often shot on the fly with spontaneity as his mantra. The sequence is live and raw and was a clear inspiration for the Uma Thurman/John Travolta dance sequence in Pulp Fiction. This scene is so hip it hurts!

    As usual Godard makes it clear to the audience that it is a film they are watching. He narrates a voiceover for the work and includes a moment where his then wife, Karina, looks directly at the camera. I previously reviewed Godard's Vivre sa Vie on DVD and it is good to see two of Godard's early works available for general viewing. It must be said that Bande A Part is something of an existential film noir B movie whereas Vivre sa vie is more of an Arthouse film and less accessible. This should not suggest that Godard is less artful in this later film but merely that he has found ways of conveying his ideas that are less self consciously arty. This is a film that can be enjoyed by the casual cinema fan as well as the Godard buff.

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Transfer Quality

Video

   Bande a part is presented on DVD in its original 1.33:1 aspect ratio.

    There is no suggestion on the DVD case that this is a restored or remastered print. It is pleasing to say that the source print must have been well stored as the picture quality of the DVD is quite exceptional.

    For a fairly low budget French film of the 60's it has an impressive visual quality. The photography of long time collaborator Raoul Coutard is well preserved. There is a nice contrast in the picture and the grain is minimal. The level of artefacts is also minimal except in some stock footage used towards the end of the film. I noticed only a few moments where there was slight damage in the print.

    Otherwise, this is probably as good as the movie has ever looked.

    The subtitles deserve a mention. As with Umbrella Entertainment's version of La Regle du jeu the subtitles are placed on a darker coloured backing matte. This has the effect at times of obscuring a larger area of the image than one would like. A particular point at which this becomes an issue is during an early scene in the English class. Whilst there is no dialogue as such, like children Arthur and Odile are passing notes which appear translated as subtitles. The subtitles effectively blanket out part of the actors' faces which gets in the way of the emotion of the scene.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    Bande a part comes in Dolby Digital 2.0 (192 KB/s). This is adequate for the dialogue in the film although it would have been nice to have had a beefier sound for the music of Michel Legrand, in particular for the Madison scene. As with Vivre Sa Vie Godard uses snatches of music at certain points for effect.

    There are two memorable if slightly odd themes. One is the romantic theme which seems overly romantic for the piece and the other is the credit music which would not be out of place in a Keystone Cops film.

    Audio sync is not a problem.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Main Menu Audio

    This is a still image of the Madison scene accompanied by the cool music.

Audio Commentary

    Lecturer in cinema studies at La Trobe University Roland Caputo, who is also co-editor of Senses of Cinema, has provided a series of short comments on scenes from the film entitled Images A Part. In my view this is a fantastic idea to be able to see key excerpts from the film with commentary. The excerpts total approximately 30 minutes and enable the commentator to give some real insight into moments from the film as well as the general ideas going through it without having to comment on every scene of the movie. This is particularly so with a film like Bande a part where there are numerous scenes of the three characters just talking.

    Some excerpts are lengthy and some are barely a minute. The scenes are as follows: Pulp Fiction; Bill The Kid and the Myth of the West; Dancing the Madison; The Nouveau Vague; The Metro; Going Underground; A Run Through The Museum; Capturing the Pre-War Atmosphere of French Cinema; Silent Cinema; Classical Equals Modern; Odile's Toy; The Continuing Adventures of Franz and Odile.

    In each of these excerpts Caputo is able to give some interesting tit-bits about the film as well as a guide to its interpretation. Importantly, it is pitched at the level of the film lover rather than film theorist and everybody could get something out of the commentary.

    Amongst the various comments I found it interesting that Godard apparently told cinematographer Rouche to imagine that he was a reporter following the cast. This plays out throughout the film as it is almost documentary-like, following these characters as if they were real people. In a sense, Rouche struggles to keep the characters within the frame due to their restless energy.

    Caputo describes Bande a part as in some ways the quintessential French new wave film as it has all the hallmarks of those films, including the use of natural light, the freeform plot, and the voice-over from Godard.

    Also of interest were the steps that Godard and cinematographer Rouche took to pay homage to other film genres. The Billy the Kid sequence is reflective of B Westerns and the final sequence as well as the early scenes in the English class have a silent film quality and are Chaplinesque in their depiction of Odile as the innocent.

Gallery - Images

    This is a series of 25 images from the film.

Theatrical Trailer

    This trailer, which runs for just less than 2 minutes, is simply a collection of moments from the film backed by the mad-cap music of Michel Legrand.

Re-Release Trailer

    The DVD also includes the re-release trailer. This runs for another 10 to 15 seconds and does not really contain anything else other than a prologue and an epilogue. In fact, the trailers are a complete summary of the film from beginning to end.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    Bande a part is available in both a Region 1/Region 0 Criterion Collection release as well as a Region 2 release. The Criterion release boasts a high definition digital transfer supervised by cinematographer Raoul Coutard. It also has interviews with Coutard and Anna Karina, early interview excerpts with Godard as well as some behind the scenes footage. Finally, there is a silent comedy by Anges Varde entitled Fiances du Pont MacDonald.

    Finally, there is apparently some new and improved English subtitle translation.

    The Region 2 release also contains some interviews with Coutard and Anna Karina but has a commentary track by the head of French studies at a London University. As well as an A-Z guide the Region 2 version tips its hat to the contemporary by including a conversation with Quentin Tarantino "on the dance sequence and Pulp Fiction". I have seen comparisons of the image quality of the two overseas releases. The Criterion Collection release definitely has the highest visual appeal. Further, although I can't comment on the improvement in the subtitles they are cleaner in the matte affect that appears on the Region 4 as well as the Region 2 release.

    For image quality as well as some of the interviews I would suggest that the Criterion Collection release is the best version currently available, although international reviewers seem to prefer the extras on the Region 2 release. The Region 4 release is definitely adequate for all but the most discerning cinephile.

Summary

   Bande a part is a key film of the French new wave that has and continues to have an influence on the directors of today.

    The image quality is excellent given the age of the release and the selected commentary is an excellent guide to the film.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Trevor Darge (read my bio)
Friday, December 08, 2006
Review Equipment
DVDOnkyo DV-SP300, using Component output
DisplayNEC PlasmaSync 42" MP4 1024 x 768. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-SR600 with DD-EX and DTS-ES
SpeakersJBL Simply Cinema SCS178 5.1

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
criterion transfer is amazing -