DVD/Blu Ray

Bande à part (PG) | Home Ents Review


Dir. Jean-Luc Godard, France, 1964, 96 mins, in French with subtitles

Cast: Anna Karina, Sami Frey, Claude Brasseur

It could be said that Bande à part is just a reimagining of a Hollywood crime film of the 1940s which follows three young misfits – Franz (Sami Frey), Arthur (Claude Brasseur) and Odile (Anna Karina) as their plan to burgle a rich old lady goes tragicomically wrong.

However, like all films by Jean-Luc Godard there is more to it. In fact the 1964 production was based on an adaptation of an American crime thriller called Fool’s Gold by Dolores Hitchens, but is more what might be described as a filmic mediation than simply an adaptation of an American thriller.

Godard’s previous film was Le Mépris which was exotic, in Technicolor, cinemascope with a little nudity, but Bande à part swapped Technicolor for black and white and the exotic Isle of Capri for the suburbs of Paris. Unlike Le Mépris, Bande à part is a playful and spontaneous film.

Possibly this spontaneity and playfulness comes from the fact that it was both low-budget and shot very quickly – in 25 days, in fact. However, it does appear from those in the know, and in this case, Anna Karina, the star of the film and John-Luc Godard’s wife at the time, that the film was not the product of on-set improvisation and that everything was exhaustively rehearsed and prepared. For example, the film contains “the Madison”, which is a classic film dance routine performed in a café. It has a marvellous air of spontaneity and natural casualness, but, its sheer informality was the result of weeks of rehearsal by the three actors and so that air of informality is really an illusion. I must say that this is just one of the scenes in the film that I enjoy watching over and over again.

The transfer of film to Blu-Ray is absolutely superb, as one might expect from a disk produced by the BFI, and there is a magnificent, full range of tones from this black and white film. Here you will see the true beauty of black and while film. The scenes of Paris and its suburbs at night and during daylight all seem to positively glow. It is helped by the fact that the scratches and blobs have been entirely eradicated. One seems to be watching an absolutely clean print as if projected for the very first time. What a delight!

As well as a 16 page illustrated booklet containing an essay about the film and a contemporary review, there is an incredibly rich array of special features – several hours’ worth in fact – and they are not simply space fillers as can often be the case these days.

These include:

  • the original trailer
  • the Outsiders: an alternative presentation of UK theatrical release credits
  • feature-length audio commentary by film critic Adrian Martin
  • Anna Karina interviewed onstage at the BFI Southbank this year
  • conversation with the critic Jason Solomons
  • Anna Karina on Jean-Luc Godard
  • an introduction to Bande à part by Ginette Vincendeau
  • interviews with Anna Karina, Claude Chabrol, Antoine de Baecque, Denitza Bantcheva, Alexandre Astruc, and Raoul Coutard
  • Les fiancés du pont MacDonald (Agnès Varda, 1961) – a silent film starring Anna Karina, Jean-Luc Godard and Sami Frey.

For film-lovers these “extras” along make this Blu-ray well worth its cost, and you get Bande à part as well.

Even if you’ve never seen any film by Jean-Luc Godard, I thoroughly recommend Bande à part as your introduction to this great director’s work.

Bande à part comes to Blu-ray for the first time in the UK, released by the BFI on 21 March.


Review by Eric Jukes