Jan Švankmajer

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MichaelB
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Jan Švankmajer

#1 Post by MichaelB » Tue Jul 22, 2008 6:12 pm

Jan Å vankmajer (1934-)

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"I don't actually animate objects -
I coerce their inner life out of them.


FEATURE FILMOGRAPHY
  • Alice (Něco z Alenky, 1988) - IMDB/YouTube clip
    Colour, 1.33:1, English and Czech dubs (neither is "original", but the Czech version has better lip-sync)

    Faust (Lekce Faust, 1994) - IMDB/YouTube clip
    Colour, 1.33:1, English and Czech dubs (neither is "original", no lip-sync issues)

    Conspirators of Pleasure (Spiklenci slasti, 1996) - IMDB/YouTube clip
    Colour, 1.33:1, no spoken content

    Little Otík (Otesánek, 2000) - IMDB/YouTube trailer
    Colour, 1.33:1, Czech dialogue

    Lunacy (Šílení, 2005) - IMDB/YouTube trailer
    Colour, 1.85:1, Czech dialogue

    Surviving Life (Přežít svůj život, 2009?)
English-friendly DVDs: Alice (First Run Features, R0 NTSC), Faust (Kino, R0 NTSC), Conspirators of Pleasure (Kino, R0 NTSC), Little Otík (US: Zeitgeist Films, R1 NTSC/UK: Cinema Club, R2 PAL/Czech Republic: Warner Home Video, R0 PAL), Lunacy (US: Zeitgeist Films, R1 NTSC; Czech Republic: Warner Home Video, R0 PAL). Note that Alice and Faust are at present only available on DVD in English (alternative Czech dubs were released in the Czech Republic on VHS).

SHORT FILMOGRAPHY
  • The Last Trick (Poslední trik pana Schwarzewaldea a pana Edgara, 1964) - IMDB
    Colour, 1.33:1, no spoken content, but onscreen text.

    J.S.Bach - Fantasy in G Minor (J.S. Bach fantasia g-moll, 1965) - IMDB
    Black and white, 2.35:1, no spoken content

    A Game With Stones (Spiel mit Steinen, 1965) - IMDB
    Colour, 1.33:1, no spoken content

    Punch and Judy/The Coffin Factory (Rakvičkárna, 1966) - IMDB
    Colour, 1.33:1, no spoken content

    Et Cetera (1966) - IMDB
    Colour, 1.33:1, no spoken content, onscreen intertitles

    Historia Naturae, Suita (1967) - IMDB
    Colour, 1.33:1, no spoken content, onscreen intertitles in Latin

    The Garden (Zahrada, 1967) - IMDB
    Black and white, 1.33:1, Czech dialogue

    The Flat (Byt, 1968) - IMDB
    Black and white, 1.33:1, no spoken content

    Picnic with Weissmann (Picknick mit Weissmann, 1968) - IMDB
    Colour, 1.33:1, no spoken content

    A Quiet Week in the House (Tichý týden v domě, 1969) - IMDB
    Colour/Black and white, 1.33:1, no spoken content, onscreen text lists days of the week

    Don Juan (Don Å ajn, 1969) - IMDB
    Colour, 1.33:1, Czech dialogue

    The Ossuary (Kostnice, 1970) - IMDB
    This exists in two versions, each visually identical (black and white, 1.33:1), but with soundtracks featuring either an irascible tour guide (the original, Å vankmajer-preferred version, banned by the Czech authorities) or a music track by Zdeněk LiÅ¡ka adapted from a Jacques Prévert poem). Both versions have spoken Czech content.

    Jabberwocky (Žvahlav aneb Å¡atičky slaměného Huberta, 1971) - IMDB
    Colour, 1.33:1, English original (recitation of the Lewis Carroll poem)

    Leonardo's Diary (Leonardův deník, 1972) - IMDB
    Black and white, 1.33:1, no spoken content

    The Castle of Otranto (Otrantský zámek, 1973-79) - IMDB
    Colour/black and white, 1.33:1, Czech dialogue and onscreen text

    The Fall of the House of Usher (Zánik domu Usherů, 1980) - IMDB
    Black and white, 1.33:1, Czech narration

    Dimensions of Dialogue (Možnosti dialogu, 1982) - IMDB
    Colour, 1.33:1, no spoken content but Czech intertitles

    Down to the Cellar (Do pivnice, 1982) - IMDB
    Colour, 1.33:1, no spoken content

    The Pendulum, the Pit and Hope (Kyvadlo, jáma a naděje, 1983) - IMDB
    Black and white, 1.33:1, no spoken content but Czech intertitles

    Virile Games/Manly Games (Mužné hry, 1988) - IMDB
    Colour, 1.33:1, no spoken content

    Another Kind of Love (1988) - IMDB
    Colour, 1.33:1, English original (Hugh Cornwell song lyrics)

    Meat Love (Zamilované maso, 1988) - IMDB
    Colour, 1.33:1, no spoken content

    Darkness-Light-Darkness (Tma, světlo, tma, 1989) - IMDB
    Colour, 1.33:1, no spoken content

    Flora (1989) - IMDB
    Colour, 1.33:1, no spoken content

    The Death of Stalinism in Bohemia (Konec stalinismu v Čechách, 1990) - IMDB
    Colour, 1.33:1, no spoken content but onscreen Czech text

    Food (Jídlo, 1992) - IMDB
    Colour, 1.33:1, no spoken content, English intertitles
English-friendly DVDs: All the above, including both versions of The Ossuary are on the BFI's Jan Å vankmajer: The Complete Short Films (Region 2 PAL). Most of the above, omitting Jabberwocky, Leonardo's Diary, Another Kind of Love and the Zdeněk LiÅ¡ka-scored version of The Ossuary, are spread across the two Kino/KimStim releases (Region 0 NTSC), The Collected Shorts of Jan Å vankmajer and The Ossuary and Other Tales. The BFI edition has superior transfers (native PAL, digitally restored), more extensive subtitling, and a whole disc of extras. Chalet Films in France has also released several shorts compilations, but without English subtitles.

ADDITIONAL FILMOGRAPHY

Although not part of the official Å vankmajer canon, these films also feature contributions by him:
  • Johanes doktor Faust (d. Emil Radok, 1958) - puppeteer and other uncredited roles
    NB: This is included on the BFI's Jan Å vankmajer: The Complete Short Films (Region 2 PAL)

    Numbers (Číslice, d. Pavel Procházka, 1965) - design

    Pictures of the Old World (Obrazy starého sveta, d. Dušan Hanák, 1972) - design

    Nick Carter in Prague (Adéla jeÅ¡tě nevečeřela, d. Oldřich Lipský, 1977) - special effects
    NB: The BFI's Jan Å vankmajer: The Complete Short Films (Region 2 PAL) contains five minutes of Å vankmajer's special effects. The entire film is available on the Czech Bonton label (Region 0 PAL), but without subtitles.

    The Ninth Heart (Deváté srdce, d. Juraj Herz, 1978) - design and titles

    The Watchmaker’s Wedding Trip to the Coral Sea (Hodinářova svatební cesta korálovým mořem, d. Tomáš Svoboda, 1979) - title design

    Madmen, Water Sprites and Hold-Your-Money-Tights (Blázni, vodníci a podvodníci, d. Tomáš Svoboda, 1980) - title design

    The Mysterious Castle of the Carpathians (Tajemství hradu v Karpatech, d. Oldřich Lipský, 1981) - special effects

    The Ferat Vampire (Upír z Feratu, d. Juraj Herz, 1981) - title design

    Monster from the Arkan Galaxy (Monstrum z galaxie Arkana, d. Dušan Vukotic, 1982) - monster design

    Three Veterans (Tři veteráni, d. Oldřich Lipský, 1983) -animation

    The Visitors (NávÅ¡těvníci, 1983) - animation

    Barrandov Nocturne (Barrandovské Nokturno aneb Jak film tančil a zpíval, d. Vladimír Sís) - animated sequences

    Scalpel, Please (Skalpel, prosím, d. Jiří Svoboda, 1985) - design

    Freckled Max and the Spooks (Pehavý Max a strašidlá, d. Juraj Jakubisko, 1987) - design

    Animated Self-Portraits (p. David Ehrlich, 1988)
DOCUMENTARIES
(about Å vankmajer himself, and with contributions)
  • The Cabinet of Jan Å vankmajer (d. Keith Griffiths, 1984)
    The first documentary on Å vankmajer, with numerous clips and interviews with art historians and experts on Surrealism. The Quay Brothers short of the same name was compiled from their animated inserts. The original 54-minute documentary is included in the BFI's Jan Å vankmajer: The Complete Short Films (Region 2 PAL).

    Jan Å vankmajer, The Animator of Prague (d. James Marsh, 1990)
    NB: Included in the Kino/KimStim compilation The Collected Shorts of Jan Å vankmajer (Region 0 NTSC)

    L’Amour Fou: Ludvík Å váb (d. Martina Kudláček, 1995)
    A portrait of Švankmajer's Czech Surrealist Group colleague, the psychiatrist Ludvík Šváb

    Laterna Magika - Life as a Dream (Laterna magika - život se snem, d. Petr Kaňka, 2001)
    An affectionate portrait of the history of the famous Prague multimedia theatre, on which Å vankmajer and many other Czech luminaries cut their creative teeth. Å vankmajer is a contributor, as is MiloÅ¡ Forman, and it includes a heartfelt eulogy to the composer Zdeněk LiÅ¡ka, who wrote most of the scores to Å vankmajer's 1960s and 1970s films.

    Les Chimères des Švankmajer (d. Bertrand Schmitt/Michel Leclerc, 2001)
    The most comprehensive Å vankmajer portrait to date. Available in two cuts of 58 minutes and 80 minutes. The shorter version is included in the BFI's Jan Å vankmajer: The Complete Short Films (Region 2 PAL), with interviews in the original Czech and English, subtitled where necessary. The longer version is only available with a continuous French voiceover translation, and is out on DVD in France through Chalet Films (Region 0 PAL) - with no English subtitles.

    The History of Painting and Sculpture (Příběhy obrazů a soch (d. AleÅ¡ Kisil, 2001)
    This massive 13-part television series about the entire history of Czech visual art devoted 10 minutes to Jan and Eva Å vankmajer - the relevant bit has been included on the BFI's Jan Å vankmajer: The Complete Short Films (Region 2 PAL, with English subtitles)
CRITERION FORUM DISCUSSION OTHER DISCUSSION BIOGRAPHIES INTERVIEWS MISCELLANEOUS (Lots more to come...)
Last edited by MichaelB on Sat Aug 09, 2008 5:48 pm, edited 6 times in total.

Zobalob
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Jan Svankmajer

#2 Post by Zobalob » Wed Jul 23, 2008 6:37 pm

Jeez Michael, when I saw your post with the photo, I thought Oh No!, it's an obit.!
Thankfully, it isn't. :)
Thanks for the very informative list of articles etc. I'm happy to say that I have copies of all the films mentioned, including the two earlier Kino sets...inferior to the BFI set in every way, though they (Kino) do have the BBC documentary "Animator of Prague", whch Svankmajer allegedly hated and which I haven't seen available on DVD anywhere else.
Years ago (probably 1990) I sent him a copy of an exhibition catalogue and totally out of the blue I received a beautiful package containing the then current issue of "Analogon" (Czech Surrealist Group magazine) wrapped in a large black and white poster sized print of a scene from "Alice" (or "Down to the Cellar", I can't remember and can't check just now). Lovely.

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#3 Post by Kinsayder » Wed Jul 23, 2008 7:51 pm

There are several French Svankmajer DVDs available at Chalet Films: 3 discs of shorts, a documentary & Alice.

Can anyone report on these? The Alice disc is "VO" (Version Originale) with French subs, though whether that means Czech or English audio I don't know.

Alapage has a scan of the back cover here, which says "Version française", implying a French dub. The publisher's website is... unhelpful.

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#4 Post by MichaelB » Sat Jul 26, 2008 6:44 am

Zobalob wrote:though they (Kino) do have the BBC documentary "Animator of Prague", whch Svankmajer allegedly hated and which I haven't seen available on DVD anywhere else.
Not "allegedly" - I have a copy of a letter in which he says as much! (He didn't hate it as much as a second BBC documentary, broadcast in 1994, about which the letter was formally complaining, but he did make a negative reference to 'Animator of Prague' in the process).

We did actually pursue it for the BFI DVD, but the BBC wanted too much money (as ever), and given Svankmajer's antipathy and the fact that it was by far the least interesting of the documentaries I was chasing, I didn't think it was worth taking it any further.

I also assumed - probably correctly - that hardcore fans would have it anyway, given that the Kino/KimStim discs beat the BFI to the market by about three years.

From what I know of the Chalet Films releases, they're largely sourced from the same PAL Digibeta masters that were supplied to the BFI and KimStim - but I'm pretty sure they weren't given any digital clean-up beyond that. Also, I believe they don't have English subtitles - not a problem with many Svankmajer films, of course, but we found that even nominally dialogue-free films like The Last Trick and The Death of Stalinism in Bohemia had plenty of onscreen text to subtitle.

I can't speak for their Alice, but in fairness I'll note that Chalet Films' version of the documentary Les Chimères des Svankmajer is of the longer 80-minute cut, whereas the BFI contains the 58-minute version. The downside is that the longer cut is only available with a French voiceover translation throughout, and no subtitles - and the voiceover issue is why I didn't pursue it for the BFI, as I thought it would be pretty intolerable once English subtitles were thrown into the mix.
Kinsayder wrote:Alapage has a scan of the back cover here, which says "Version française", implying a French dub. The publisher's website is... unhelpful.
Given that this film is a UK-Swiss-German co-production, "VO" could legitimately mean English, French, German or Czech - in this instance, I'm guessing French.

To the best of my knowledge, the Czech version has only been released in the Czech Republic (I have a now OOP VHS; it's not out on DVD there). Given that the little girl in the extreme close-ups isn't even lead actress Krystyna Kohoutová, I'm not sure why they didn't go the whole hog at the time of post-production and film separate inserts with properly lip-synced English, French et al, because that's the only real issue here - the style and content are otherwise identical as far as I can make out. (My Czech is very basic... but then again, so's the film's narration. In fact, I actually used the Czech soundtrack as a learning aid!)

On a more general note, I've just added two more filmographies to the main post, listing films on which Svankmajer worked but did not direct, and documentaries either about or featuring him.

And grovelling apologies to Zobalob, whose second post I managed to delete by accident - I haven't quite got the hang of these moderator superpowers yet!

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#5 Post by Zobalob » Sat Jul 26, 2008 5:54 pm

That's OK (the accidental deletion).
There is also the book on Svankmajer edited by Peter Hames , published in '95 I think and re-issued this year in an expanded edition, which seems to be impossible to get hold of. What's the difference between the editions? Is it just an extra short chapter covering the feature films (when issued initially, it covered "Alice" and, briefly, "Faust" AFAICR) ?.

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#6 Post by MichaelB » Sun Jul 27, 2008 5:17 am

Last time I spoke to Peter Hames (late April, at the Jiri Menzel Q&A), he said that it was imminent, but he didn't know the exact date and I haven't seen any copies actually on the shelves - and I work within walking distance of the book-buying Mecca that is the Charing Cross Road.

I don't know the precise details of the new edition - I'm guessing the original pieces by Mike O'Pray, Roger Cardinal et al will remain unchanged (since they only referred to the short films in any case), but Hames's introductory chapter will probably have been revised to take into account 13 years' additional research into Czech cinema, and of course discussion of the features will bring it bang up to date. I also dimly recall that he did a fresh interview with Svankmajer to take that section beyond Faust.

I also know for a fact that he extensively revised the bibliography and videography, because I helped him with it.

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#7 Post by foggy eyes » Sun Jul 27, 2008 8:28 am

The new volume has disappeared from the 'forthcoming titles' section of Wallflower's site (which appears to have been updated very recently), so 'imminent' might be a stretch. Deadlines or expected release dates rarely seem to be adhered to in academic publishing, so who knows when it will actually come out!

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#8 Post by MichaelB » Sat Aug 09, 2008 6:09 am

I've just added loads more links in the DISCUSSION and MISCELLANEOUS sections.

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#9 Post by Zobalob » Sat Aug 09, 2008 5:45 pm

MichaelB wrote:I've just added loads more links in the DISCUSSION and MISCELLANEOUS sections.
Thanks Michael, plenty more to investigate, very thorough.

I saw the stage production in Glasgow and it was very good indeed. The Guardian gave it a glowing review.

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#10 Post by MichaelB » Thu Aug 14, 2008 7:06 am

Zobalob wrote:That's OK (the accidental deletion).
There is also the book on Svankmajer edited by Peter Hames , published in '95 I think and re-issued this year in an expanded edition, which seems to be impossible to get hold of. What's the difference between the editions? Is it just an extra short chapter covering the feature films (when issued initially, it covered "Alice" and, briefly, "Faust" AFAICR) ?.
I now have a review copy of Dark Alchemy: The Cinema of Jan Å vankmajer in my hand - I'm not sure of the publication date, but it can't be long now given that printed copies exist. The ISBN number is 978-1-905674-45-9.

I don't have my first edition immediately to hand for a direct comparison, but the introduction to the second edition makes it pretty clear what the changes are.

As I suspected, the chapters by Michael O'Pray and Roger Cardinal, and Peter Hames' introductory chapter are largely unchanged aside from minor editorial tweaks.

The chapter 'The Force of Imagination' by František Dryje and the interview with Švankmajer have been expanded to cover all the features.

New material includes a short article, 'Decalogue', by Švankmajer (which I think was a text extra on the Czech DVDs of Little Otik and Lunacy), a chapter on puppets in Švankmajer's films by Peter Hames, and an afterword (also by Hames) that pays tribute to Eva Švankmajerová and looks at Švankmajer's work in the context of present-day Czech cinema.

Also as expected, the bibliography and videography have been significantly expanded.

Overall, it's 40 pages longer than the first edition, but the pages are also about a third as big again, so I suspect the word count is substantially greater.

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#11 Post by petoluk » Fri Aug 22, 2008 6:57 am

MichaelB wrote:
Kinsayder wrote:Alapage has a scan of the back cover here, which says "Version française", implying a French dub. The publisher's website is... unhelpful.
Given that this film is a UK-Swiss-German co-production, "VO" could legitimately mean English, French, German or Czech - in this instance, I'm guessing French.
Hi guys!
I've got the French DVD - I was planning to do a comparison with the Japanese release by Columbia Video for quite some time now, but I'm busy as hell. :( Anyway, the French disc is actually a DVD-R, with badly printed cover, and I'm not 100 % sure at the moment (I was checking it out a few months ago), but I remember being disappointed about it having French dubbing only (I can check again when I get home today)...

Now, this was already mentioned in another thread here, but a Dutch company called Moskwood Media is supposed to release yet another Alice DVD on September 23: www.moskwood.nl

They were postponing the release for almost a year now, because of - according to a source there - "working on an additional voice-over track." They didn't want to confirm though if it was going to be the Czech one...

Also, Michael, I'd like to correct these two statements of yours (if you don't mind :wink:):
MichaelB wrote:Note that Alice and Faust are at present only available on DVD in English (alternative Czech dubs were released in the Czech Republic on VHS).
Faust with Czech soundtrack was available in Russia (the DVD is OOP now), and Moskwood's release features the Czech track too! Here's a comparison of these two editions (the Japanese one is included as well): dvdfreak.bloudil.cz
MichaelB wrote:Jabberwocky (Žvahlav aneb Å¡atičky slaměného Huberta, 1971) - IMDB
Colour, 1.33:1, English original (recitation of the Lewis Carroll poem)
There's also a Czech soundtrack - it's featured on the UK (Cinema 16), Japanese (Columbia Video) & Dutch (Moskwood) releases of Jabberwocky. Moskwood's version also features the Czech opening title sequence. More info here: dvdfreak.bloudil.cz

Cheers! :wink:
Peto

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#12 Post by MichaelB » Sun Aug 24, 2008 6:48 am

petoluk wrote:There's also a Czech soundtrack - it's featured on the UK (Cinema 16), Japanese (Columbia Video) & Dutch (Moskwood) releases of Jabberwocky. Moskwood's version also features the Czech opening title sequence. More info here: dvdfreak.bloudil.cz
Really? On the Cinema 16 compilation? I have that disc, and have watched the film more than once, and can't believe I wouldn't have noticed if it had been in Czech. I'll dig it out and have a listen, though.

But in this particular case, I can't see how a Czech translation of an English original (and an English nonsense original at that) would be an improvement. There's no diegetic sound, so there are no synchronisation issues - and it's worth noting that both the version included on Kratky Film's long OOP Czech VHS compilation and the master that Athanor (Å vankmajer 's own company) sent me from a newly-struck print for the BFI DVD were in English.

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#13 Post by petoluk » Sun Aug 24, 2008 12:38 pm

Sorry, my bad - Cinema 16 really features the English soundtrack. But I double checked the Japanese disc, and there's only the Czech soundtrack there. The Dutch release features both.

I'm not an expert on Å vankmajer, but I just thought that the Czech soundtrack was a valid option too. And I'm sure it would be an improvement for native Czech speakers. :wink: Also, like I said, the Dutch version features the Czech opening title sequence, so I'd hazard a guess that Å vankmajer created two different language versions of Jabberwocky, complete with titles for each language...?

Cheers!
Peto

P.S. I also double checked the French Alice DVD, and there's only the French soundtrack there...

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#14 Post by MichaelB » Sun Aug 24, 2008 1:01 pm

petoluk wrote:I just thought that the Czech soundtrack was a valid option too. And I'm sure it would be an improvement for native Czech speakers.
Oh, it's certainly worth mentioning - but it looks to me from those framegrabs that I'd have gone for the English version regardless, as it's so clearly a superior print (and how!). As with Faust, I think the only people who would benefit from the Czech version are native Czech speakers - the English soundtracks are just as "official". (Alice is a different case, as there are clear lip-sync issues with non-Czech versions).

On a more practical note, I also suspect that throwing in yet another film on disc one of the BFI set (bearing in mind it's not just a question of an alternative soundtrack, since there are different onscreen titles) would have had detrimental effects on the bitrate. I always wanted to split discs one and two over the 1972/79 period when Svankmajer was prevented from directing, but this meant that disc one was crammed to bursting.

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#15 Post by bunuelian » Sun Aug 24, 2008 2:08 pm

In the Czech version of Faust, were all the voices done by one actor, as in the English version? I find the English soundtrack a little fatiguing because of the way it was mastered (using the same reverb throughout).

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#16 Post by MichaelB » Sun Aug 24, 2008 2:32 pm

bunuelian wrote:In the Czech version of Faust, were all the voices done by one actor, as in the English version? I find the English soundtrack a little fatiguing because of the way it was mastered (using the same reverb throughout).
Yes - aside from being in Czech, it's pretty much identical. Presumably original actor Petr Čepek supplied the voices (though I'm not absolutely certain of this as he was terminally ill towards the end of production), but the general premise is the same - and it makes perfect sense when you consider that Svankmajer was primarily inspired by puppet performances, where the puppeteer would supply the single voice.

I suspect a Czech speaker would detect more linguistic nuances in the Czech version (presumably the text is explicitly sourced from old Faust puppet plays in Czech, just as the English text quotes Christopher Marlowe), but if you don't understand the language there's no advantage that I can see.

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#17 Post by orlik » Mon Sep 01, 2008 10:27 am

MichaelB wrote:
Zobalob wrote:though they (Kino) do have the BBC documentary "Animator of Prague", whch Svankmajer allegedly hated and which I haven't seen available on DVD anywhere else.
Not "allegedly" - I have a copy of a letter in which he says as much! (He didn't hate it as much as a second BBC documentary, broadcast in 1994, about which the letter was formally complaining, but he did make a negative reference to 'Animator of Prague' in the process).
I didn't know about this: what was the basis of Svankmajer's dislike for these documentaries? I remember seeing the first BBC documentary, and indeed it's far less interesting or thorough than those on the BFI set (the Keith Griffiths doc, despite the simple format, is particularly fascinating, not least as a reminder of what Channel 4 used to be capable of), but I don't remember anything obviously 'offensive' in it. Maybe it emphasised a little too much the stereotyped image of 'magic Prague' (it's been a while since I saw it, so this may not be accurate), or maybe Michael O'Pray's commentaries were the problem - Michael Richardson, in his newish book Surrealism and Cinema, criticises O'Pray for misrepresenting Svankmajer's work. It's a long shot though as I've always found O'Pray's work excellent and very informative/reliable.
Last edited by orlik on Fri Oct 15, 2010 11:24 am, edited 2 times in total.

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#18 Post by MichaelB » Sat Sep 06, 2008 9:08 am

orlik wrote:I didn't know about this - what was the basis of Svankmajer's dislike for these documentaries?
He was specifically objecting to a 1994 BBC documentary, which I never saw - and his main bone of contention was the way that the filmmaker had not only used out-of-context extracts from his films (which he accepted was a necessary evil in a promotion/discussion context) but had actually re-edited the footage within those clips, making a nonsense of Svankmajer's highly distinctive editing strategies. I'm quoting from memory, but he said that even under Communism no-one had had the temerity to physically interfere with his footage.
I remember seeing the first BBC documentary, and indeed it's far less interesting or thorough than those on the BFI set (the Keith Griffiths doc, despite the simple format, is particularly fascinating, not least as a reminder of what Channel 4 used to be capable of), but I don't remember anything obviously 'offensive' in it.
Svankmajer only referred to it in passing, but made it clear that he wasn't that impressed with it either - though his comment was probably coloured by a general anti-BBC prejudice. That said, I agree that it's by far the least interesting of the documentaries, and didn't exactly go out of my way to pursue it - as I said above, I reckoned hardcore fans would have it anyway, so there wasn't a particularly strong incentive to pay the licensing fee (especially given that it was either that documentary or one or two of the rarer extras - I couldn't afford them all!)
Maybe it emphasised a little too much the stereotyped image of 'magic Prague' (it's been a while since I saw it, so this may not be accurate), or maybe Michael O'Pray's commentaries were the problem - Michael Richardson, in his newish book Surrealism and Cinema, criticises O'Pray for misrepresenting Svankmajer's work.
Well, I have issues with Richardson's criticism, because this passage from his book is more than a little contentious:
Michael Richardson wrote:O'Pray appears to have been responsible for a depiction of Svankmajer as a 'militant surrealist', a phrase that has been frequently repeated even though it is a contradiction in terms: surrealism is never 'militant' (I am uncertain whether Svankmajer ever described himself in such a way: if he did it was undoubtedly in a spirit of provocation which O'Pray has misunderstood).
Actually, "militant surrealist" is undoubtedly Svankmajer's own coinage (the Czech is virtually identical aside from case endings, so there's no doubting the accuracy of the translation), his own preferred term for himself, and a phrase that he has recycled in a great many different contexts - including both the documentaries on the BFI disc (and I don't think O'Pray started writing about his work until after the Channel 4 documentary had been broadcast).

I find it hard to believe that he was being provocative every time, and think it's more likely that Richardson has simply misunderstood what he meant by "militant surrealist". He seems to think that the phrase refers to surrealism itself, whereas it's clear from the context that Svankmajer was referring to himself as a militant advocate of the philosophy.

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#19 Post by Zobalob » Thu Sep 25, 2008 6:16 pm

MichaelB wrote:I don't have my first edition immediately to hand for a direct comparison, but the introduction to the second edition makes it pretty clear what the changes are.

As I suspected, the chapters by Michael O'Pray and Roger Cardinal, and Peter Hames' introductory chapter are largely unchanged aside from minor editorial tweaks.

The chapter 'The Force of Imagination' by František Dryje and the interview with Švankmajer have been expanded to cover all the features.

New material includes a short article, 'Decalogue', by Švankmajer (which I think was a text extra on the Czech DVDs of Little Otik and Lunacy), a chapter on puppets in Švankmajer's films by Peter Hames, and an afterword (also by Hames) that pays tribute to Eva Švankmajerová and looks at Švankmajer's work in the context of present-day Czech cinema.

Also as expected, the bibliography and videography have been significantly expanded.

Overall, it's 40 pages longer than the first edition, but the pages are also about a third as big again, so I suspect the word count is substantially greater.
I found a copy of this in good old Waterstones and bought it, it feels/looks much nicer than the "Flicks Books" edition. Different illustrations I think and spaced throughout the text, rather than grouped together as in the "Flicks", although these (the earlier edition) were printed on a glossy art stock. It's also been reset with a smaller font size and, as you said, has a slightly larger page size. It's in the "Directors' Cut" series, published by Wallflower, so it's the same size as the Lynch, Herzog etc volumes. Nice to see it appear in a more mainstream series.

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Re: Jan Å vankmajer

#20 Post by MichaelB » Tue Dec 23, 2008 5:07 pm

I hear on the grapevine that Å vankmajer's next feature Surviving Life is in production, thanks to a timely Eurimages grant, and should be completed by this time next year for a 2010 premiere.

(The lengthy shoot is because there's set to be a lot of animation this time)

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Re: Jan Å vankmajer

#21 Post by Zobalob » Wed Dec 24, 2008 9:01 pm

MichaelB wrote:I hear on the grapevine that Å vankmajer's next feature Surviving Life is in production, thanks to a timely Eurimages grant, and should be completed by this time next year for a 2010 premiere.

(The lengthy shoot is because there's set to be a lot of animation this time)
Interesting, especially the part about the animation (lot of)...please keep us posted on any other details you come across.
Off topic, but I see that the Quays' "Sanatorium Under the Sign of the Hourglass" is to be feature length and is in "pre production".

Edit....Have a great Christmas and New Year by the way.

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Re: Jan Å vankmajer

#22 Post by What A Disgrace » Sat Dec 27, 2008 6:01 pm

Having only seen his short films, and his most recent film Lunacy, I can't think of a more promising way to start the next decade than with a new Svankmajer film.

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Re: Jan Å vankmajer

#23 Post by bunuelian » Sun Dec 28, 2008 1:25 am

If you've not seen Alice, it should be at the top of your to-see list. Conspirators of Pleasure is also incredibly fun.

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Re: Jan Å vankmajer

#24 Post by Zobalob » Thu Jan 01, 2009 7:59 pm

bunuelian wrote:If you've not seen Alice, it should be at the top of your to-see list. Conspirators of Pleasure is also incredibly fun.
Don't forget "Faust", wonderful film.

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Re:

#25 Post by petoluk » Tue Jan 27, 2009 11:50 am

petoluk wrote:Now, this was already mentioned in another thread here, but a Dutch company called Moskwood Media is supposed to release yet another Alice DVD on September 23: www.moskwood.nl

They were postponing the release for almost a year now, because of - according to a source there - "working on an additional voice-over track." They didn't want to confirm though if it was going to be the Czech one...
The Dutch Alice DVD seems to be back on track again - the release date has been moved to February 23. Unfortunately, according to the updated tech specs here, there will be only Dutch audio on the disc ("Nederlands gesproken")... :(

Cheers!
Peto

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