Band of Outsiders (Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]
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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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"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.
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.
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".
"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.
"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.
"Bande à part" has occasionally been treated as a departure from this director's work, as "Godard for people who don't like Godard". However, anyone who has seen Godard's films to date will immediately recognize elements typical of his work at the time. For example, someone reads aloud a classic work of literature, this time an English teacher in a parody of modern language-learning methods. There is leftist social commentary, as the two criminals kill time by reading aloud tragic passages from Parisian newspapers. There is also dancing, as in the film's most famous scene Odile, Franz and Arthur interrupt their plotting for an amusing line dance in a café, over which the narrator tells us their unspoken thoughts.
And then there is Godard's many references to the film canon. "Bande à part" is deeply imbued with the spirit of American noir films, which fits with the crime caper plot, but it also nods to classic slapstick and romance, which gives it a levity and charm I wouldn't have expected from a film with these particular characters. "Bande à part" may not be among the most awesome masterpieces of cinema, but it is memorable and funny, and very much worth seeing for fans of mid-century French films.
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