Written by: Michael Den Boer on April 12th, 2016
Theatrical Release Date: France, 1964
Director: Jean-Luc Godard
Author: Dolores Hitchens
Cast: Anna Karina, Danièle Girard, Louisa Colpeyn, Chantal Darget, Sami Frey, Claude Brasseur, Georges Staquet, Ernest Menzer, Jean-Claude Rémoleux
BluRay released: March 21st, 2016
Approximate running time: 96 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 Aspect Ratio / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Rating: PG (UK)
Sound: LPCM Mono French
BluRay Release: BFI
Region Coding: Region B / Region 2 PAL
Retail Price: £19.99 (UK)
Jean-Luc Godard first rose to prominence in the 1960’s as part of La Nouvelle Vague and it is the films that he directed during this era 1960-1967 that remain his most celebrated films. Starting with his debut film Breathless and culminating with Weekend.
Not known for following the rules of conventional cinema Godard’s narrative often have spontaneity to them that gives off the vibe that they were improvised. When in reality this couldn’t be farther the truth in regards to the use of improvising, since Godard always had an idea of what he wanted even if it wasn’t always in script form. With that being said, Bande à part is a departure of sorts as it is arguably the straightest forward plot to ever appear in a Godard film.
This film’s protagonist point of view is another area where this film differs from the films that Godard had made up to that point of his career. There is not one, two but three protagonists and one of this film’s greatest strengths is how it gives its three characters’ equal face time. With the scenes where all three main characters appearing it in being the scenes the most satisfying moments. And without a doubt no moment stands taller than the scene where the three main characters’ dance in a café.
Godard is a filmmaker who is always looking to try something new and very rarely does he ever repeat himself. Case in point, Godard would follow his most lavish production to date Contempt. With a more intimate film that would bring him full circle to Breathless, where it all began for him as a filmmaker. And nowhere is this more evident then when it comes to the visual style of the film. With the key collaborator who helped him achieved this task being cinematographer Raoul Coutard (Jules and Jim, Bride Wore Black). The bulk of Coutard’s collaboration with Godard would cover every feature length film Godard directed from Breathless to Weekend.
Despite being regarded as one of his most straight forward narrative of his career. There is one area that is never lacking throughout Bande à part and that is Godard’s need to innovate. With this film being his breakthrough in regards to self-referential material which appears throughout the film. And in many instances these moments of self-referential are part of a foundation for the many layers of self-referential. Needless to say there are far too many of these moments to categorize all of them. And for anyone who is interested in learning more about the self-referential moments in Bande à part. This release from BFi comes with an excellent extras that covers them in great detail.
From a performance stand point the entire cast are all very good in their respective roles. And though there are three central characters who drive this film’s narrative. The true star of this film is Anna Karina (The Nun, The Stranger) in the role of Odile, the object of desire of two of her male classmates. It is also through the pressure from these two boys that this character reluctantly agrees to participate in stealing a large sum of money from a man who rents a room from Madame Victoria, the woman she lives with. Karina delivers an extraordinary performance that is arguably one her best performances of her career. With the aforementioned dance scene in café being one of her most iconic moments as an actress.
Bande à part comes on a 50 GB dual layer (44.9 GB) BluRay. This release has been flagged for progressive playback and the film is presented in its intended 1.33:1 aspect ratio. The source of this transfer is Gaumont’s 2010 restoration. The image looks crisp, black and contrast levels remain solid throughout. Also there are no issues with DNR or compression and grain looks natural.
This release comes with one audio option, a LPCM stereo mix in French and included with this release are removable English subtitles. The audio is in great shape as dialog is always clear, everything sounds balanced and robust when it needs. Also the more ambient aspects of the soundtrack are well represented.
Extras for this release include, an introduction to Bande à part by Ginette Vincendeau (20 minutes 5 seconds), the original theatrical trailer for the film (1 minute 51 seconds), The Outsiders: original British release opening and closing titles (2 minutes 57 seconds), Anna Karina interviewed onstage at the BFI Soundbank (31 minutes 46 seconds), Anna Karina on Jean-Luc Godard (9 minutes 34 seconds), an interview with Raul Coutard (11 minutes 4 seconds, in French with English subtitles), JLG/AK: an interview with Anna Karina (40 minutes 33 seconds, in French with English subtitles), JLG/CC: an interview with Claude Chabrol (28 minutes 56 seconds, in French with English subtitles), JLG/ABD: an interview with Antione de Baecque (16 minutes 19 seconds, in French with English subtitles), JLG/DB: an interview with Denitza Bantcheva (22 minutes 25 seconds, in French with English subtitles), JLG/AA: an interview with Alexandre Astruc (19 minutes 33 seconds, in French with English subtitles), a short film titled Les Fiancés du pont Mac Donald (5 minutes 16 seconds, in French with English subtitles) and an audio commentary with Adrian Martin.
Topics discussed in the introduction with Ginette Vincendeau include, Jean-Luc Godard’s New Wave period of his career, initial audience and critical reaction to the film, New Wave film movement, cinematographer Raul Coutard and the look of the film, how the film is filled with many in-jokes, keys sequences and themes explored in this film, Anna Karina and the importance of the film which came at a very dark time during her life, her thoughts about film and how it has since gained a Cult Film status.
Topics discussed in the extra titled Anna Karina on Jean-Luc Godard include, her first encounter with Jean-Luc Godard who wanted her to appear in a minor role in Breathless which required nudity and why she refused his offer, how Godard shortly there after offered a much better role and contract for additional films, learning French and losing her accent.
Topics discussed in the interview with Raul Coutard include, working with Jean-Luc Godard and the importance of taking risks, how he used two cameras’ for Bande à part – an Arriflex for handheld / exteriors and a Mitchell for interiors, lighting interiors on a limited budget, shooting exteriors and the advantages of shooting on location and The New Wave Film movement.
Topics discussed in the interview with Anna Karina onstage at the BFI Soundbank include, working in French cinema during the 1960’s, Bande à part, her performance and key sequences in the film, working with Jean-Luc Godard and his filmmaking process, her favorite Godard film that she appeared in, Laughter in the Dark and her experiences filming it.
Topics discussed in the extra titled JLG/AK include, she discusses Bande à part appeal with young people, the iconic dance scene from Bande à part, working with Jean-Luc Godard and how his process differed from other filmmakers, working with cinematographer Raul Coutard and how her working / personal relationship with Godard changed over the eight years they were together.
Topics discussed in the extra titled JLG/CC include, his early interactions with Jean-Luc Godard working as press agents for 20th Century Fox, his early forays into filmmaking, his contributions to Breathless and why he prefers Le Petit Soldat to the aforementioned Breathless, filmmaking techniques employed by Godard, how Godard fell into traps on a political level and how in reality Godard is not the persona he wants everyone to be believe he is.
Topics discussed in the extra titled JLG/ABD include, why Jean-Luc Godard decided to make a film like Bande à part after shooting a film like Contempt, how Bande à part was financed by Columbia Pictures and that the film was adapted from the novel Fool’s Gold, Anna Karina and how Bande à part was written for her, Anna Karina, Sami Frey and Claude Brasseur’s and his thoughts about their performances and key moments in the film.
Topics discussed in the extra titled JLG/DB include, how in recent years Godard has distanced himself from Bande à part. Also for the bulk of this extra Denitza Bantcheva puts into context the literary, music and other references in Bande à part.
Topics discussed in the extra titled JLG/AA include, New Wave film movement and how it changed French cinema, Godard’s Swiss heritage and how it set him apart from his contemporaries, Bande à part and his thoughts about the film.
Topics discussed in the audio commentary include, the look the film and how precise Godard is in choosing compositions, locations featured in film and how Godard uses said locations, how Godard with a Bande à part wanted to make a more traditional film, La Nouvelle Vague (New Wave), techniques used in the film, recurring themes in Godard’s films, the film’s initial lack of success and how it has since become a cult movie.
This release comes with an Easter Egg which can be located by highlighting the trailer. Then press up to make a ? appear and then press enter. This hidden extra is a continuation of Anna Karina’s BFI Southbank interview and this time the subject discussed is Vivre sa vie (36 minutes 14 seconds, in English).
Rounding out the extras is an eighteen-page booklet with an essay about the film titled ‘Bande à part: Jean-Luc Godard’s Playtime’ written by Andy Miller, Sight and Sound’s review for Bande à part from 1964 written by Tom Milne, cast & crew information and information about the transfer. Also included with this release is a DVD that has the same content included on the Blu-Ray included as part of this combo release. Overall Bande à part gets an exceptional release from BFI, highly recommended.