Jiří Trnka

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dda1996a
Joined: Tue Oct 27, 2015 6:14 am

Jiří Trnka

#1 Post by dda1996a » Tue Apr 24, 2018 4:07 am

Couldn't find a thread for Jiří Tranka.
With Lincoln Film Center doing a retrospective of all his work, and almost non of his features being available, does anyone know of any plans of releasing his work on blu-ray?

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MichaelB
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Re: Jiří Trnka

#2 Post by MichaelB » Tue Apr 24, 2018 4:12 am

Three labels wanted to do something for the centenary six years ago; all changed their minds after seeing the state of (then) existing materials. I know at least one of the features has since been restored, but I imagine the bulk of his output is in the same situation as before - i.e. awaiting the necessary attention.

dda1996a
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Re: Jiří Trnka

#3 Post by dda1996a » Tue Apr 24, 2018 4:28 am

I was hoping this retrospective will get things going. There's just absolutely no way to watch about half his filmography, which is the most I've ever encountered out of a well known director (at least to cinephiles) as I can't find anything even in back channels.

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MichaelB
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Re: Jiří Trnka

#4 Post by MichaelB » Tue Apr 24, 2018 7:11 am

There are SD video masters of pretty much his entire output (I watched them when working on the BFI Southbank centenary retrospective), but they're arguably not good enough even for DVD - I suspect they were telecined at some point in the 20th century. And if any director needs a full high-definition restoration, it's Trnka.

But his great compatriot and near-contemporary Karel Zeman was in an identical situation not that long ago, and look at what's happening now. It appears, after a worryingly slow start whereby a hugely ambitious 200-film restoration programme was announced nearly a decade ago and initially crawled at the rate of about one a year, that the Czechs have significantly upped their game when it comes to restoring their classics, and Trnka must surely be a major cultural priority. So fingers crossed.

(Next year is the fiftieth anniversary of his death...)

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AidanKing
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Re: Jiří Trnka

#5 Post by AidanKing » Tue Apr 24, 2018 10:49 am

Michael Sragow has written an article on Trnka on the Film Comment website to accompany the retrospective.

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L.A.
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Re: Jiří Trnka

#6 Post by L.A. » Tue Apr 24, 2018 12:56 pm

I just remembered that Old Czech Legends received a DVD release some time ago, should be the restored version. Too bad not on Blu-ray though.

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Re: Jiří Trnka

#7 Post by pistolwink » Wed Apr 25, 2018 4:44 pm

I study stop-motion animation and had the very good fortune of being able to attend every program in the series (except for LEMONADE JOE, the live-action feature that was part of the Jiri Brdecka sidebar). I had previously only seen THE HAND and came away convinced that Trnka's work is of major importance far beyond the realm of animation (though of course the idea that 'animation' and 'cinema' are somehow separate is a fallacy). His approach to framing and montage, as well as the integration of folk themes and especially music, reminded me of some other vaguely Eisensteinian midcentury Czech and Soviet works (MARKETA LAZAROVA, some of Khamraev's films, even Parajanov...), but the films are full of marvelous idiosyncrasies, and of course there's the singularity of handling of all this with puppets.

Some notes:
-most of the films were shown on DCP. Two of the features (CZECH YEAR and OLD CZECH LEGENDS) have had "official" restorations under the supervision of the Czech National Archive (one done in Hungary and the other in the Czech Republic). The head notes on the DCPs clarify that the restorers took care to retain elements indicative of animation processes of the '50s such as reflections in glass, particulate matter, and image instability. The other DCPs seem to have been made recently, perhaps for this series? The transfers seemed to have been minimally messed-with—they left in the scratches and analog audio hiss, for instance. A couple of programs included films on 35mm followed directly by ones on DCP, and to be honest at times it was hard to tell that the DCPs weren't prints (aside from the hard edge of the frameline, etc.). The newly commissioned DCPs included new subtitles by a fellow named Alex Zucker (who was in attendance). Many of these films do circulate on video and in the torrentsphere, often with poor image quality—but without English subtitles. Some of the shorts are wordless, as is THE EMPEROR'S NIGHTINGALE, but for many if not most, narration (in the form of speech or song) is pervasive and integral.

-a few films were shown on 35mm, including a print of the American version of A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM. The Czech version was in Scope, but this one was in Academy ratio (the composition didn't seem to suffer too much, surprisingly). All the references to the English version indicate that Richard Burton did the narration, but it was obviously someone else's (a woman's) voice. This surprised even the curator/programmer of the series. And while that print was just astonishing visually (in terms of color, especially) and did not seem at all 'beat up,' it broke twice during projection. Not sure if it was an original release print or of more recent provenance. Still a wonder to see. Also showing on 35mm was THE EMPEROR'S NIGHTINGALE and assorted shorts.

-As Sragow indicates in his FC piece, perhaps the biggest revelation was the original, narration-less version of NIGHTINGALE. The version that circulates on video is the one with Karloff's narration.

-Though Trnka is closely associated with puppet animation, the films (and especially the shorts) integrate a wide range of stop-motion practices. Some films primarily use cutouts, while others mix techniques in shrewd and delightful ways. (For instance, a big part of the GOOD SOLDIER SVEJK films is the title character's digressions and shaggy-dog stories, which are typically represented in simple black-and-white line-drawn cutouts.) And some of his shorts consist of barely- or non-animated series of paintings, basically a way of rendering cinematic his popular book illustrations. The way the films mix drawings, cutouts, photographs, models, and objects is remarkable.

-The design of the series reflected the importance of Trnka's collaborators—indeed, my understanding is that he didn't do that much animating himself but worked with a consistent team of animators, including Bretislav Pojar and Jan Karpas. (Pojar didn't get his own sidebar, but they showed a couple of films credited to him for which Trnka did, I believe, the scenarios only.) The Brdecka sidebar included several of his cutout films that visualize (grim and grisly) folk songs; the standout for me was THE FORESTER'S SONG, as well as one with designs by Eva Svankmajerova. One Brdecka short (a film made for the U.S. market and perhaps not held by the Czech national archive?) appeared to have been shown from DVD.

Fingers crossed for some kind of mega-Blu-ray set. Seeing all the visual textures on the enormous screen at the Walter Reade was really something. If nothing else, perhaps CZECH YEAR is headed for a video release similar to the one for OLD CZECH LEGENDS.

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Saturnome
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Re: Jiří Trnka

#8 Post by Saturnome » Thu Apr 26, 2018 12:08 am

I believe that A Midsummer's Night Dream was shot in both ratios with two cameras, the angles are very slightly differents when comparing side by side.

I have also seen the restoration of Old Czech Legends and it was a revelation; it truly is something to see Trnka's work in a proper way.

The retrospective is coming to Montréal later this year and I'm very happy for that.

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