103 Dragon's Return

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MichaelB
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103 Dragon's Return

#1 Post by MichaelB » Thu Nov 22, 2012 7:17 am

From Second Run's latest newsletter:
Our love for Czechoslovak cinema will continue with a host of gems to come in 2013. A very exciting part of that will be the emphasis that we will give to the 'Slovak' part of that word by presenting to you a series of classic but unfathomably little-seen films which we hope will have the same impact as the discoveries you made with Second Run of films such as Marketa Lazarová and Szindbád. The films have all been beautifully restored by the Slovak Film Institute. A hint here of a couple of the films which we just know will be revelatory viewing... Štefan Uher's 1962 masterpiece The Sun in a Net (Slnko v sieti), and Eduard Grečner's beautifully poetic Dragon's Return (Drak sa vracia). We said a series... and we will give you more titles and more details on these in the months to come, and we hope you are as excited as we are at the prospect of making these films available for the first time to a new and appreciative audience.
And I trust Zedz won't mind if I quote his reaction (from the Czech DVDs thread):
This is what cinephilia - and this forum - is all about. Here's a major masterpiece I'd never heard of, by a director I'd never heard of, that has vaulted to the top reaches of my hotly contested 1960s list already. It's just sheer mastery from the first seconds. As the film opens, I thought to myself that Zdeněk Liška really outdid himself this time, with an incredible score of orchestral dissonances and chanting, whispering voices that expand and contract into a complete detailed, semi-abstract soundscape as if the soundtrack were breathing and stretching like an organic thing. And then I check the box and find that it's not Liška at all, but Ilja Zeljenka (who also did fine work on The Sun in a Net). Seriously, this is one of the all-time great film scores, and the wonder of it all is that the film's up to it.

It's a simple medieval tale of village politics, vindictiveness and revenge, told in the glancing, impressionistic style of many a New Wave classic, but strengthened by a wonderfully tactile sense of its world, very much in line with Vláčil and Tarkovsky (though the timeframe doesn't seem right for either Andrey Rublyov or Marketa Lazarová to be a direct influence, since Dragon's Return was made in '67). When two of the characters take off on a dangerous mission in the middle of the film, it actually anticipates the 'ecstatic truth' of Herzog's filmmaking expeditions. A first-rank masterpiece, anyway.

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John Edmond
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Re: Dragon's Return

#2 Post by John Edmond » Thu Nov 22, 2012 9:59 am

And I can only second that bar noting the film's lovely sensualist use of telephoto, and hoping Zedz expands on the film's pottery (don't laugh). No chance you (MB) are preparing a nice essay for the booklet regarding what the hell happened to Grečner?

I just hope Second Run can wrangle a anamorphic transfer. If I recall correctly it was the Slovakian DVD label that chose to waste 2K transfers on non-anamorphic releases but the logic seems dubious enough that I'm probably wrong. Either way I look forward to gifting my old DVD to somebody of decency.

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Re: Dragon's Return

#3 Post by MichaelB » Thu Nov 22, 2012 10:18 am

John Edmond wrote:And I can only second that bar noting the film's lovely sensualist use of telephoto, and hoping Zedz expands on the film's pottery (don't laugh). No chance you (MB) are preparing a nice essay for the booklet regarding what the hell happened to Grečner?
I don't know who's doing the booklet, but Grečner seems to have spent the 70s and 80s supervising Slovak-language versions of other people's films - the only film-industry job he could get after the post-1968 crackdown. He made two features in the 1990s - Earthly Disturbance (1993) and Jasek's Dream (1996) - but I know nothing about them.

There's an episode of Golden Sixties devoted to him, and he comes across as pretty modest - he's constantly deferring to people like his mentor Štefan Uher, and Dragon's Return seems to be the only one of his films that he was really satisfied with. But that's the only one that I've seen with subtitles.

Oh, and not only is he still alive, but he also has a blog - though unsurprisingly it's in Slovak.
I just hope Second Run can wrangle a anamorphic transfer. If I recall correctly it was the Slovakian DVD label that chose to waste 2K transfers on non-anamorphic releases but the logic seems dubious enough that I'm probably wrong. Either way I look forward to gifting my old DVD to somebody of decency.
If a 2K master exists, an anamorphic transfer should be a mere formality - but I don't know what materials Second Run have been supplied with (if any thus far). But hopefully they should be able to improve on the Slovak disc - which is staggeringly cheap*, but you get what you pay for! (It's a very safe bet that the Second Run edition will have superior subtitles and context-setting extras).

*Mind you, once you've factored in delivery charges from Slovakia, you probably won't save much (if anything at all), unless you bulk-buy a whole load of Slovak DVDs...

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Re: Dragon's Return

#4 Post by zedz » Thu Nov 22, 2012 4:54 pm

John Edmond wrote:And I can only second that bar noting the film's lovely sensualist use of telephoto, and hoping Zedz expands on the film's pottery (don't laugh).
Second Run have my blessing to use "Sheer visual pottery" as a pull quote. And if Michael's writing an essay, he could call it "The Kiln Fields." You're welcome.
No chance you (MB) are preparing a nice essay for the booklet regarding what the hell happened to Grečner?
As Michael said, he gets a full hour to himself in the Golden Sixties series. Watching all 20+ episodes in quick succession, the details blur a bit, but he was one of the depressing number of great filmmakers who were chased into the margins of the industry after the Prague Spring.

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John Edmond
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Re: Dragon's Return

#5 Post by John Edmond » Thu Nov 22, 2012 8:59 pm

Thanks for the Golden Sixties tip. I knew of the series, but had been faintly intimidated by tackling that many episodes - my kevyip is already worrying. And I wasn't sure if Grečner would rate an episode on his limited career. Maybe an extra for the DVD?

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Re: Dragon's Return

#6 Post by zedz » Thu Nov 22, 2012 10:12 pm

Since each episode is rife with (painfully tantalising) extracts from lots of different films, I expect that would be a costly and difficult licensing job, so I wouldn't hold my breath.

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Re: Dragon's Return

#7 Post by MichaelB » Fri Nov 23, 2012 2:59 am

Enquiries have been made, and not just in connection with this film (let's face it, it's a bit of an extras gold mine!) - but Zedz is essentially correct: the clip rights were cleared for broadcast in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, not for retail in the UK.

I can't remember exactly what I had to pay for the clips for Nick Carter in Prague on the BFI's Švankmajer compilation, but I seem to recall it was triple figures, and mid-triple figures at that. And that's just one film - and the rightsholder would be the same as for many of the films featured in the series. (Bonton Film, if I remember rightly).

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John Edmond
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Re: Dragon's Return

#8 Post by John Edmond » Fri Nov 23, 2012 3:50 am

You're right, they are an obvious gold mine. Should've spent a few seconds guessing why they hadn't popped up already. I guess excising the extracts is an option but probably misses the point (and requires a substantial reworking).

At least, unlike the Cinéastes de notre temps series, they are available with subtitles.

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Re: Dragon's Return

#9 Post by MichaelB » Fri Nov 23, 2012 5:44 am

John Edmond wrote:You're right, they are an obvious gold mine. Should've spent a few seconds guessing why they hadn't popped up already. I guess excising the extracts is an option but probably misses the point (and requires a substantial reworking).
Notionally, it might be possible to extract the bits pertaining specifically to The Sun in a Net and Dragon's Return (i.e. the films Second Run has cleared anyway), both of which are covered in some detail (at least cumulatively in the case of The Sun in a Net), but that would depend on whether the original rightsholder is OK with the original programmes being cut about like that.

Another option would be the sections on each film in the two-part follow-up series 25 From the Sixties, which run just under ten minutes apiece and involve multiple talking heads - though again the ball is in the rightsholder's court.

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Re: Dragon's Return

#10 Post by petoluk » Fri Nov 23, 2012 2:14 pm

FWIW, Daniel Bird / Bildstoerung licensed a part of the Golden 60's episode on Vera Chytilova for the docu accompanying their release of Daisies, so I guess the rightsholders are not... unreasonable. :)

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Re: Dragon's Return

#11 Post by AidanKing » Wed Jan 14, 2015 11:49 am

Any news on when this one is likely to be released? I'm certainly intrigued by the Tarkovsky/Vlacil comparisons.

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Re: Dragon's Return

#12 Post by Bikey » Wed Jan 14, 2015 2:45 pm

It will be the next of our Slovak releases - after Hanák's Pictures of the Old World which we release in February.
Dragon's Return will certainly be this year (likely the latter part of 2015).

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Re: Dragon's Return

#13 Post by What A Disgrace » Fri Jun 19, 2015 12:00 am


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Re: Dragon's Return

#14 Post by repeat » Fri Jun 19, 2015 2:40 am

WHAT, I had no idea Second Run is putting this out!! Outstanding film, totally agree with zedz on this one - it deserves to be put up there with Marketa Lazarová. Dying to see his any of his other stuff as well, but I don't think they're available even in his home country. Just got the Slovak DVD for myself last week, but seeing that this will get wider release and promotion just made my day!

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Re: Dragon's Return

#15 Post by MichaelB » Fri Jun 19, 2015 4:53 am

John Edmond wrote:Thanks for the Golden Sixties tip. I knew of the series, but had been faintly intimidated by tackling that many episodes - my kevyip is already worrying. And I wasn't sure if Grečner would rate an episode on his limited career. Maybe an extra for the DVD?
I can now answer this: the Golden Sixties producers are happy to license their own original interviews, but they haven't cleared the international rights to any of the clips that they used, so they're not prepared to license entire episodes.

Which is why Arrow's upcoming BD of The Firemen's Ball will feature excerpts from three Golden Sixties episodes as opposed to my original plan of licensing the whole of the Miloš Forman one. But I think it's worked out pretty well: we're ending up with roughly 25 minutes of Forman, Ivan Passer and Miroslav Ondříček discussing the film from various angles, so there'll be more material on the film even if there's less on Forman himself.

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Re: Dragon's Return

#16 Post by Bikey » Sat Jun 20, 2015 8:10 am


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Re: Dragon's Return

#17 Post by swo17 » Thu Jun 25, 2015 5:13 pm

Image

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Re: Dragon's Return

#18 Post by Bikey » Thu Aug 20, 2015 3:15 am


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Re: Dragon's Return

#19 Post by Bikey » Sat Aug 22, 2015 6:01 am

Full details of this release now up at our website

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Re: Dragon's Return

#20 Post by Bikey » Mon Aug 24, 2015 5:26 am

OUT TODAY!

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Re: Dragon's Return

#21 Post by RossyG » Mon Aug 24, 2015 5:46 am

And mine's on the way! Hope I like it.

I've actually no idea what it's about. It's about as blind a buy as you can get.

It's Slovak, from the Sixties, released by Second Run and I liked the cover so I thought, sod it.

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Re: Dragon's Return

#22 Post by Bikey » Mon Aug 24, 2015 5:55 am

"Second Run have released a miraculously clear transfer of a 50-year-old classic that looks as though it were filmed yesterday... reminded me in particular of The Seventh Seal, with its fateful atmosphere, striking visual composition, and timeless bond with the cycles of nature and local superstition"
Alison Frank reviews DRAGON'S RETURN in the latest Electric Sheep.

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Re: Dragon's Return

#23 Post by Bikey » Tue Aug 25, 2015 5:37 am

"The Czech New Wave may cast a long shadow over the concurrent Slovak one, but Dragon's Return is certainly one reason to light a torch and take a look."
Ben Nicholson reviews DRAGON'S RETURN at CineVue.

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Re: Dragon's Return

#24 Post by Bikey » Thu Aug 27, 2015 4:52 am

"Plays out like a medieval poem... Dragon’s Return beguiles and enchants."
Backseat Mafia

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Re: Dragon's Return

#25 Post by Bikey » Thu Aug 27, 2015 5:28 am

"It is a jaw-dropping masterpiece, an exercise in pure cinematic storytelling that captivates, enchants and terrifies in each scene."
Graham Williamson at The Geek Show raves over Grečner's DRAGON'S RETURN

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