The French New Wave was alive and well in 1964, and no better proponent of that fact can be found than Jean-Luc Godard’s Band of Outsiders. Filled with Godard’s frisky sense of humor, his tacit flaunting of cinematic conventions, and a bittersweet tale typical of his storytelling acumen of that time, Band of Outsiders weaves its own kind of special spell. It’s not as brazen or as compelling as Breathless, but its whacked-out skew of a triangle love story with nods to Romeo and Juliet is nevertheless quite arresting.
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Audio: French 1.0 PCM (Mono)
Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 1 Hr. 35 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-raykeep case
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Release Date: 05/07/2013
Having met the entrancing Odile (Anna Karina) in their English class, small-time crooks Arthur (Claude Brasseur) and Franz (Sami Frey) alternately flirt with her and pick her brain when they learn that in her aunt’s (Louisa Colpeyn) home is a large sum of money not even locked away. The three decide to take the money and leave Paris for points unknown, but the robbery scheme has to move up its timetable when Arthur’s crooked uncle (Ernest Menzer) gets wind of the money stash and decides to get it for himself.Godard based his screenplay on the novel Fools’ Gold, but he’s made the story decidedly his own by incorporating into the film his own patented revolutionary snubs at conventional cinema. In addition to Godard’s own narration of the story (which he pauses early on to recap for late arrivals to the theater), several times Karina’s Odile turns to the camera to address the audience and Franz turns to recount for us one of Jack London’s stories. The story stops dead in its tracks to allow Arthur and Franz to read the newspaper to one another or for the trio to get up in a café and dance the Madison or to take a nine-minute dash through The Louvre, and, of course, there’s that famous scene where Godard turns off the sound and allows his actors to sit in silence for an entire minute (to prove that silence seems to last longer than it is). Still with all of those tricks, the film literally breathes Paris with cars driving on sidewalks to get through narrow thoroughfares and with the views of the Seine, the subway, an arcade, and its cafes. And the quirky, comically arresting little love triangle between the three leads turns achingly tragic as the robbery plans turn to ashes little by little as the film nears its conclusion.Anna Karina was married to Godard by this time, and he clearly was still infatuated with her as she’s caressed by the camera and allowed lots of changes in hair styles that emphasize her gamin quality. She’s wonderfully innocent and captivating to the two men, and her appeal to them is understandable. Claude Brasseur has the showier of the two leading male roles as Arthur, not as physically attractive as Sami Frey’s Franz but a man whose nonchalant swagger intrigues Odile enough to make her lose interest temporarily in Franz whom she had been drawn to first. Sami Frey lets his looks do most of the work in the film relying on them rather than establishing a strong persona as Franz. Danièle Girard has a nice sequence as the teacher trying to impart some English-language instruction to a classroom of students distracted by the antics of the three leads.
The Production Rating: 4/5
The film has been framed at its theatrical 1.33:1 aspect ratio and is presented in 1080p using the AVC codec. Restored in 2010, this film's transfer has a nicely handled grayscale that emphasizes crisp whites and decent black levels. Sharpness varies a bit depending on the original photography (which varied between handheld and larger mounted cameras), but the restoration has delivered a very clean image with no age-related artifacts to speak of. The white subtitles are very easy to read. The film has been divided into 23 chapters.
Video Rating: 4/5 3D Rating: NA
The PCM 1.0 (1.1 Mbps) sound mix has greatly reduced any hiss or other age-related aural artifacts which might have hampered the sound’s effectiveness. Typical of the mono sound of the period, there’s little on the low end, and some occasional outdoor recording sounds a bit muddled and indistinct. The music score by Michel Legrand (which contains snatches of the songs from his The Umbrellas of Cherbourg) comes across nicely enough though with just a bit of distortion sometimes.
Audio Rating: 4/5
Visual Gallery (18:00, HD): visual and auditory notes on thirty-one different references in the movie which might be missed by American audiences.Godard, 1964 (5:18, HD): excerpts from a film documentary Cinema of Our Times in which Godard describes his cinematic philosophy and we see some brief behind-the-scenes footage of him at work on Band of Outsiders.Anna Karina (18:28, HD): a 2002 interview with the actress who tells a bit of her biographical history of breaking into film acting and then describes memories of working with Godard.Raoul Coutard (11:03, HD): Godard’s cinematographer on sixteen films shares memories of working on Band of Outsiders.Les fiancés du pont Mac Donald (2:55, HD): a brief excerpt from Agnes Varda’s 1961 silent short in which Jean-Luc Godard, Anna Karina, Sami Frey, and Danièle Girard take part.Two Theatrical Trailers (1:53, 2:11, HD); the first is the theatrical trailer and the second is a reissue trailer.25-Page Booklet: contains cast and crew lists, critic Joshua Clover’s take on the film, Jean-Luc Godard’s own character essays on the three leads, and a 1964 interview with Godard conducted by Jean Collet.Timeline: can be pulled up from the menu or by pushing the red button on the remote. It shows you your progress on the disc and the title of the chapter you’re now in. Additionally, two other buttons on the remote can place or remove bookmarks if you decide to stop viewing before reaching the end of the film or want to mark specific places for later reference.
Special Features Rating: 4/5
Not the best of Godard but Band of Outsiders is one of his most effective and audience friendly comedy-dramas. Criterion has done a fine job bringing their original DVD release up to high definition standards. Recommended!
Overall Rating: 4/5
Reviewed By: Matt Hough
Click here to view the review
Support HTF when you buy this title: