Jan Švankmajer: The Complete Short Films

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denti alligator
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Jan Švankmajer: The Complete Short Films

#1 Post by denti alligator » Sun Oct 08, 2006 4:07 pm

Jan Švankmajer: The Complete Short Films

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The world is divided into two unequal camps: whose who have never heard of Jan Svankmajer... and those who happen upon his work and know that they have come face to face with a genius.' - Anthony Lane, The New Yorker.

Featuring all 26 entries in the official filmography, this is the world's first complete DVD edition of the short films by the legendary Czech Surrealist filmmaker-animator Jan Svankamjer. Technically and conceptually astonishing in their own right, these films are also as remarkable for their philosophical consistency as for their frequently mind-boggling imagery.

This package also includes a bonus short, Johanes Doktor Faust (1958), the longer cut of The Cabinet of Jan Svankmajer with a new introduction by the Quay Brothers, the documentary Les Chimeres des Svankamajer (2001), interviews Jan and Eva Svankmajer and examples of their work in other media. There's also a chance to see some Svankmajer special effects, created when he was banned from directing his own films. A 54-page illustrated booklet includes full credits and detailed notes on each film by leading Svankmajer experts.

Disc One: Early Shorts 1964-1972
The Last Trick (1964)
J S Bach - Fantasy in G Minor (1965)
A Game with Stones (1965)
Punch and Judy (1966)
Et Cetera (1966)
Historia Naturae, Suita (1967)
The Garden (1968)
The Flat (1968)
Picnic with Weissmann (1968)
A Quiet Week in the House (1969)
Don Juan (1969)
The Ossuary (1970)
Jabberwocky (1971)
Leonardo's Diary (1972)

Disc Two: Late Shorts 1979-1992
The Castle of Otranto (1979)
The Fall of the House of Usher (1980)
Dimensions of Dialogue (1982)
Down to the Cellar (1983)
The Pendulum, the Pit and Hope (1983)
Virile Games (1988)
Another Kind of Love (1988)
Meat Love (1988)
Darkness - Light - Darkness (1989)
Flora (1989)
The Death of Stalinism in Bohemia (1990)
Food (1992)

Extras
- Johanes Doktor Faust (Emil Radok, 1958)
- Nick Carter in Prague (Oldrich Lipsk, 1977 excerpts)
- The Cabinet of Jan Svankmajer (Keith Griffiths, 1984)
- Les Chimres des Svankmajer (Bertrand Schmitt/Michel Leclerc, 2001)
- Czech TV Interview (2001)
- Lunacy trailer (2005)

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#2 Post by MichaelB » Mon Oct 09, 2006 3:36 am

denti alligator wrote:What happened to the Svankmajer collection? The Bros. Quay collection is on schedule, but the Svankmajer seems to have disappeared. Any signs of preorderability?
It's definitely happening - too much money has been spent already! - but the choice was between releasing a compromised version before Christmas or waiting until we had everything we wanted and releasing in early 2007. I can't be any more precise about the date than that because I don't yet know myself - and neither can I divulge anything more about the contents for the moment.

But the Quay DVDs have been signed off, and look fabulous - I know I'm biased (to put it mildly), but my "wow!" reaction to seeing the final transfers on my home system was entirely genuine.

(I was more than familiar with the Digibeta masters, of course, but that's not quite the same thing as being able to see exactly what purchasers of the DVDs will see).
Last edited by MichaelB on Mon Oct 09, 2006 12:00 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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#3 Post by Lino » Fri Dec 01, 2006 6:55 pm

MichaelB, sorry if I sound like I'm intruding or something but about the Svankmajer releases: are we talking his shorts, his features or both?

Please ignore this question if you can't answer it. And thanks in advance.

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#4 Post by MichaelB » Fri Dec 01, 2006 6:56 pm

Lino wrote:MichaelB, sorry if I sound like I'm intruding or something but about the Svankmajer releases: are we talking his shorts, his features or both?
I'm working on the shorts - but I believe the features (at least four, possibly all five) are also being readied for UK release on another label, and hopefully for next year as well.

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#5 Post by Lino » Fri Dec 01, 2006 7:08 pm

Great news! Looking forward to those releases.

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#6 Post by MichaelB » Fri Mar 23, 2007 7:01 am

The May BFI Southbank guide is out, and on page 51 is a sneak preview of the upcoming Jan Švankmajer DVD box:
Jan Švankmajer: The Short Films 1964-92

The BFI presents the most comprehensive collection of short films by the legendary Czech animator Jan Švankmajer. A three-disc set in deluxe packaging, it not only boasts 26 short films - all the classics plus many UK premieres - but also a bonus disc of rare extras including feature-film extracts and two documentaries about Švankmajer and his work.
A few other snippets of info (and a couple of corrections):

1. The final title is actually Jan Švankmajer: The Complete Short Films;
2. A further short has been added to the package at the last minute, making 27 in total (i.e. four more than the US discs);
3. The documentaries are The Cabinet of Jan Švankmajer (the original 54-minute version of what is better known as a Quay Brothers short) and Les Chimeres des Švankmajer, the latter presented with English subtitles for the first time.
4. The extras disc also includes a recent Czech TV interview with Švankmajer (mostly discussing his fine art) and samples of his special-effects work when he was banned from making his own films in the 1970s.

Also, Švankmajer is making a live appearance in London on Tuesday 29 May, following a screening of Lunacy - this starts at 6.30pm.
Last edited by MichaelB on Wed Jul 23, 2008 4:23 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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#7 Post by denti alligator » Fri Mar 23, 2007 10:34 am

Expected street date?

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#8 Post by MichaelB » Fri Mar 23, 2007 10:38 am

Soon, but I'm not tempting fate by making premature announcements of a definite date, especially as some variables are outside my control (i.e. the BBFC vetting eight hours of material).

And I've seen what you lot do to Second Run and MoC if they're ten seconds later than originally scheduled!

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#9 Post by denti alligator » Fri Mar 23, 2007 10:51 am

MichaelB wrote:And I've seen what you lot do to Second Run and MoC if they're ten seconds later than originally scheduled!
Ouch!

Well, this is the most exciting release of the year, the decade even!

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#10 Post by MichaelB » Mon Apr 23, 2007 4:17 pm

The Švankmajer box is now confirmed for 25 June - and unless anything completely unexpected happens, this won't be changing.

Despite Amazon, Play et al jumping the gun, it became increasingly obvious that May wasn't going to be possible without last-minute corners being cut, which would have been a crying shame given all the work that's gone into this release.

But believe you me, it'll be well worth the wait - and I know whereof I speak, as I spent a deliriously happy weekend watching the final transfers for the first time...
Last edited by MichaelB on Wed Jul 23, 2008 4:24 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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#11 Post by MichaelB » Thu May 03, 2007 4:43 pm

OK, here are some more Švankmajer leakages:

1) J.S.Bach - Fantasy in G minor, Švankmajer's only widescreen short, will have a 35mm-sourced anamorphic transfer for the first time ever on DVD. I'm particularly pleased about this, as the film is primarily a study of texture and needs all the detail it can muster. (All the other films are in the original 4:3).

2) Up to now, it's been general practice with Švankmajer's films to only bother subtitling those featuring spoken dialogue. This time round, we've subtitled absolutely everything: dialogue, credits and any relevant onscreen text - The Last Trick and The Death of Stalinism in Bohemia benefit especially from this. The latter still needs a fair knowledge of Czech history 1945-89 for full appreciation, but at least the various onscreen slogans are now comprehensible to non-Czechs - even if most of them turned out to be banal Marxist-Leninist drivel.

3) The booklet will be 56 pages, and will contain credits and detailed analyses of all the shorts by myself, Simon Field, Michael O'Pray, Julian Petley, A L Rees and the late Philip Strick. It also features an introduction by Michael O'Pray, biographies of Jan and Eva Švankmajer and the most comprehensive Švankmajer filmography yet assembled (stretching to the surprisingly extensive list of other people's films that he worked on in various capacities). It's in full colour throughout, and copiously illustrated with many rare stills.

...and it's still on course for June 25. And now that the BBFC has delivered its verdict (a 15, as predicted), things should run like clockwork.
Last edited by MichaelB on Wed Jul 23, 2008 4:25 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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#12 Post by meanwhile » Fri May 04, 2007 1:33 pm

It also features an introduction by Michael O'Pray, biographies of Jan and Eva Å vankmajer and the most comprehensive Å vankmajer filmography yet assembled (stretching to the surprisingly extensive list of other people's films that he worked on in various capacities
Does this work include the credits for Juraj Herz's The Cremator? I don't think I've seen this actually confirmed anywhere.

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#13 Post by MichaelB » Fri May 04, 2007 4:05 pm

meanwhile wrote:Does this work include the credits for Juraj Herz's The Cremator? I don't think I've seen this actually confirmed anywhere.
No, because I wasn't aware that he did them. Quite a few other Herz films are included, though - and The Cremator gets a nod elsewhere in the booklet.

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#14 Post by zedz » Tue May 08, 2007 6:06 pm

MichaelB wrote:
meanwhile wrote:Does this work include the credits for Juraj Herz's The Cremator? I don't think I've seen this actually confirmed anywhere.
No, because I wasn't aware that he did them.
I've never seen confirmation of this either. In fact, I've never even heard it rumoured, though they certainly look very Svankmajerian (my immediate thought on first seeing the film was that JS was responsible), and there is an established connection between the two filmmakers. It would be nice to confirm one way or the other, and, at the very least, give appropriate credit to whoever was responsible for them.

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#15 Post by MichaelB » Tue May 08, 2007 6:12 pm

zedz wrote:and there is an established connection between the two filmmakers.
Exact contemporaries (born on the same day), schoolfriends and creative partners both at the Laterna Magika theatre and on each other's films. In fact, Herz and Švankmajer definitely worked together in 1968 (when The Cremator was made), as Herz appears in Švankmajer's The Flat, as the bowler-hatted man with the chicken.

So there's every possibility that Švankmajer made an uncredited contribution to The Cremator - if I get a chance, I'll ask him.

Amazon.co.uk now has the cover artwork for the Švankmajer box - though the release date is still erroneously given as May 28 (it's 100% definitely June 25).

MovieMail has more accurate info, though the cover image is smaller.

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#16 Post by Tommaso » Tue May 22, 2007 7:26 am

The Svankmajer cover looks nice, though not as great as the Quay Brothers set (sorry Michael...). Still, I can't wait to get that release...

The BFI site has now covers and info on MacPherson's "Borderline" and the Ian Breakwell disc. "Borderline" seems amazing...
Still no sign of Svankmajer, the two new Mitchell&Kenyons and the much desired (at least by me) Painlevé disc :-(

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#17 Post by What A Disgrace » Tue May 22, 2007 7:36 am

Moviemail is pulling our legs, right? Nick Carter in Prague as a special feature?!
Last edited by What A Disgrace on Tue May 22, 2007 7:39 am, edited 1 time in total.

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#18 Post by MichaelB » Tue May 22, 2007 7:38 am

What A Disgrace wrote:Moviemail is pulling our legs, right? Nick Carter in Prague as a special feature?!
Excerpts, not the whole thing!

It's a five-minute compilation of Švankmajer-designed special effects shots.

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#19 Post by What A Disgrace » Tue May 22, 2007 7:39 am

One of these days, I'll learn to read.

Does BFI own the rights to the whole film?

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#20 Post by MichaelB » Tue May 22, 2007 7:44 am

What A Disgrace wrote:One of these days, I'll learn to read.

Does BFI own the rights to the whole film?
No. The rightsholder was very keen indeed for us to take on the entire film, but I honestly don't think there's much of a market in Britain for slapstick Seventies Czech comedy-fantasies - at least not within the BFI's remit to promote outstanding world cinema. It's amusing enough, but hardly a lost classic - I can think of dozens of Czech films far more deserving of a UK release (including other films by Oldřich Lipský).

So we licensed five minutes maximum, which by lucky hap turned out to be precisely what we needed.

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#21 Post by MichaelB » Mon May 28, 2007 5:39 pm

DVD Times has just uploaded Painlevé and Švankmajer details, plus sample menu screens for the Švankmajer package.

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#22 Post by Matt » Mon May 28, 2007 5:55 pm

MichaelB wrote:DVD Times has just uploaded Painlevé and Švankmajer details, plus sample menu screens for the Švankmajer package.
Am I misrembering or has the Painlevé been licensed by Zeitgeist for US release?

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#23 Post by Subbuteo » Tue May 29, 2007 3:34 am

MichaelB wrote:DVD Times has just uploaded Painlevé and Švankmajer details, plus sample menu screens for the Švankmajer package.
They look damn beautiful. Will have to double dip on the Painlevé as I own the French discs, but heh ho!

Incidentally anyone hoping to pick up the above - do yourself a huge favour and get the exquisite book on Painlevé Science is Fiction by Brico Press, before it goes out of print. You won't regret it.

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#24 Post by MichaelB » Sat Jun 16, 2007 11:42 am

Here's Marina Warner on Švankmajer in today's Guardian - including comments on the new BFI release:
Svankmajer has been a cult figure for a while, but his works are still difficult to find. Happily, the complete short films have now been collected by the BFI in a three-disc set; 26 extraordinary works so far, they unfold his artistry and his preoccupations with rare richness, and have been annotated by an admiring group of critics and film historians. As for the major films, shamefully, only Little Otik (2000) and Lunacy (2005) are available on DVD in the UK. So this set of short films is a marvellous and invaluable collection.
(The situation is actually worse than she's making out - Lunacy isn't out on a UK DVD either.)

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#25 Post by BrightEyes23 » Sat Jun 16, 2007 12:38 pm

Michael, congrats on the reception of what seems like a marvellous and must-own package. You have done the film community a great service by producing this release (and the Quay Brothers). I'm going to order it as soon as I can afford to!
Really looking forward to seeing what other projects you've got in the pipeline.

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