Alice

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MichaelB
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Re: Alice (Jan Švankmajer, 1988)

#26 Post by MichaelB » Tue Mar 15, 2011 10:40 am

Adam Grikepelis wrote:can't help thinking, while related short films are being added to the disc, that Svankmajer's own 'Down to the Cellar' would've made a nice companion piece. but more Quay's in HD is always good too :)
Unfortunately, while enquiries were made, it seems that there are currently no existing HD masters of Švankmajer's short films, and the cost of creating a new one from high-quality 35mm materials would have significantly increased the disc's production budget.

That can't really be justified for a mere extra, especially not when Alice-themed HD alternatives are already available.

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Adam Grikepelis
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Re: Alice (Jan Švankmajer, 1988)

#27 Post by Adam Grikepelis » Fri Mar 18, 2011 4:13 am

no, I know :cry:
I was just musing out loud. I've just watched the KimStim collection of shorts recently (in an effort to get myself off the fence and buying the BFI set), and it was on my mind.
Last edited by Adam Grikepelis on Fri Mar 18, 2011 8:43 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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MichaelB
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Re: Alice (Jan Švankmajer, 1988)

#28 Post by MichaelB » Fri Mar 18, 2011 4:22 am

If it's an incentive, one of the very best transfers in the BFI set is of Jabberwocky, which KimStim omitted altogether for some reason.

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Adam Grikepelis
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Re: Alice (Jan Švankmajer, 1988)

#29 Post by Adam Grikepelis » Fri Mar 18, 2011 8:49 pm

yes, going by the link you provided in the old DVD Times review of comparison's between the few different releases, Kim Stim looked to be far worse on a few of the films. though the whole set had a slightly harsh digital look. very much looking forward to seeing all the hard work done for the BFI set, along with all the shorts missing from the Kim Stim release.

and of course, looking forward enormously, to the BD of Alice.

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MichaelB
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Re: Alice (Jan Švankmajer, 1988)

#30 Post by MichaelB » Sat Mar 19, 2011 6:38 am

A large number of the films on both the KimStim and BFI releases were sourced from the same Prague-supplied Digibetas (we weren't granted access to 35mm materials, so there was no way round this) - but the BFI transfers look substantially better because they weren't converted to NTSC (ghosting doesn't do stop-motion animation any favours whatsoever), and they underwent a proper digital cleanup prior to encoding.

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Adam Grikepelis
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Re: Alice (Jan Švankmajer, 1988)

#31 Post by Adam Grikepelis » Sun Mar 20, 2011 3:00 am

good to hear. it's always interesting how different releases sourced from the same materials can come out looking so different.

anyway, Alice & collected shorts, both ordered.
minus VAT, both are being sold at about 50% off retail on Amazon UK right now. almost feels like I'm buying them from the back of someone's van... :-$

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John Edmond
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Re: Alice (Jan Švankmajer, 1988)

#32 Post by John Edmond » Sun Mar 20, 2011 3:56 am

It is a beautiful thing isn't it? Only yesterday I got to see a visiting English friend visibly splutter when she discovered that Australians pay almost 20% less than UK residents - all thanks to free shipping and no VAT.

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MichaelB
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Re: Alice (Jan Švankmajer, 1988)

#33 Post by MichaelB » Sun Mar 20, 2011 8:09 am

The gap's about to get even wider if rumours are correct about Tuesday's Budget closing the Jersey tax loophole currently being exploited by Amazon, Play, Moviemail, HMV and others, and at the same time lowering the import duty threshold from £18 to £8...

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Adam Grikepelis
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Re: Alice (Jan Švankmajer, 1988)

#34 Post by Adam Grikepelis » Sun Mar 20, 2011 10:41 am

well that's just mean

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Re: Alice (Jan Švankmajer, 1988)

#35 Post by perkizitore » Sun Mar 20, 2011 11:34 am

Amazon is paying tax and is able to price match its rivals, i doubt that prices will go up.
Last edited by perkizitore on Wed Mar 23, 2011 7:54 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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John Edmond
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Re: Alice (Jan Švankmajer, 1988)

#36 Post by John Edmond » Sun Mar 20, 2011 7:16 pm

Seriously, they're considering dropping the import duty threshold to £8? Even £18 is too low. When the GST was introduced in Australia the threshold was set at AUD100 (or £60); the argument being that 100 was a nice round number that was reasonably close to the point where it was worth wasting Custom's time and money to open the packages and calculate the tax owed. Even with the VAT being double the GST, £8 means the UK government is spending money to slowdown their postage system and make UK citizens pay more. To be fair, this is perfectly in line with the Cameron government's basic tendencies.

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Re: Alice (Jan Švankmajer, 1988)

#37 Post by MichaelB » Wed Apr 20, 2011 12:59 pm

Back on topic, an additional short has been added to the Alice line-up in the form of Elsie and the Brown Bunny, an 8-minute Cadbury's advertising film from 1921 that was heavily inspired by Lewis Carroll. It's on the DVD only - I assume only the BFI Mediatheque's SD master was available.

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MichaelB
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Re: Alice (Jan Švankmajer, 1988)

#38 Post by MichaelB » Thu Apr 21, 2011 6:19 am

...and the booklet will be 36 pages.

Contrary to the original announcement that it would contain "newly-commissioned" pieces, it turned out that existing pieces by Clare Kitson (on the film's logistically, financially and politically convoluted production history) and Philip Strick (in-depth critical analysis) were so good that it made sense just to reproduce those. There are also detailed notes on all five supporting shorts, biogs of Švankmajer and Keith Griffiths, a 1987 interview with Švankmajer and the usual technical notes and credits.

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Re: Alice (Jan Švankmajer, 1988)

#39 Post by petoluk » Thu Apr 21, 2011 6:31 am

Nice!!! :D

This + the Czech DVD of Surviving Life on the same day - May 23 can't come soon enough!

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Feego
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Re: Alice (Jan Švankmajer, 1988)

#40 Post by Feego » Thu Apr 21, 2011 7:46 am

Will there be any biographical information on Kristýna Kohoutová in the features/booklet? If not, do you MichaelB (or anyone else, for that matter) know anything about her? I've always wondered how she came to be cast in the film, what her experiences were like, and if she ever saw the film. And of course, it would be interesting to know where she is now and any recollections of the film she may have (though I realize this is something we will likely never know).

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Re: Alice (Jan Švankmajer, 1988)

#41 Post by MichaelB » Thu Apr 21, 2011 8:01 am

Feego wrote:Will there be any biographical information on Kristýna Kohoutová in the features/booklet? If not, do you MichaelB (or anyone else, for that matter) know anything about her?
No - I don't know anything about her other than snippets that Švankmajer has revealed in interviews.

Which essentially amount to: she wasn't a professional actress, it's her only film, and she seems to have come from something of a broken home - certainly, her family didn't seem the least bit bothered about the necessarily long hours she had to spend on set.

Švankmajer apparently cast her primarily for her eyes, after initially considering using several different girls in the role. Actually, if you watch the English version, you're effectively getting three performers - Kohoutová herself, the anonymous girl used in the extreme close-ups of her mouth (Kohoutová lost a front tooth at a crucial moment, so had to be replaced), and British actress Camilla Power, who did the dub.
I've always wondered how she came to be cast in the film, what her experiences were like, and if she ever saw the film. And of course, it would be interesting to know where she is now and any recollections of the film she may have (though I realize this is something we will likely never know).
This sounds harsh (and I may of course be completely wrong), but I'm not convinced they would be that interesting - she was only five or thereabouts, and I imagine the experience was more tedious than anything else, given the number of times she'd have had to stand still while Švankmajer and his team animated around her.

I certainly wouldn't expect any recollections to compare with, say, Jaroslava Schallerová's account of making Valerie and her Week of Wonders when she was more than twice Kohoutová's age and appearing in a live-action drama opposite other actors.

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Feego
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Re: Alice (Jan Švankmajer, 1988)

#42 Post by Feego » Thu Apr 21, 2011 10:02 am

That's sad to hear about her family life. I didn't expect much information about her to be available. I can certainly see what Svankmajer saw in her eyes. They're so large and expressive that Svankmajer is able to pull so much emotion from them without really having her change her facial expressions. There is a constant sense of sadness about her (perhaps a reflection of her home life?). He used the little girl in Down to the Cellar to similar effect, but for me Kohoutová has a more haunting presence. It's no surprise that of all the memorable images from the film, the one defining image seems to be the one used for the BFI and First Run covers, that of little Alice peering through the tiny door, her sad eyes like deep pools drawing the viewer into her dark fantasy.

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Re: Alice (Jan Švankmajer, 1988)

#43 Post by MichaelB » Tue May 03, 2011 2:55 pm

I think pretty much everything has already been revealed in this thread, but here's the official announcement:
Alice
A film by Jan Švankmajer


Following its release of Jan Švankmajer: The Complete Short Films in 2007, the BFI now presents the legendary Czech surrealist’s award-winning 1988 feature film Alice in a Dual Format Edition with a host of bonus extras.

Jan Švankmajer’s Alice (Něco z Alenky) is a distinctly disturbing and creepy interpretation of Lewis Carroll’s perennial literary classic, yet it is perhaps the closest to the original work. It is released on both DVD and Blu-ray discs in this Dual Format Edition.

Combining a live-action Alice (Kristýna Kohoutová) with a stop-motion Wonderland filled with threatening, bizarre characters, Švankmajer’s deliberately crude style of animation, use of close-ups and rich design work lend the film a pervading sense of unease and a menacing dream-logic which marries a sly visual wit with piercing psychological insight.

Jan Švankmajer won the Feature Film Award for Alice at the Annecy International Animated Film Festival, 1987 and the film was nominated for Best Film in the Fantasporto International Fantasy Film Awards, 1989.

Presented here fully uncut and in its original Czech-language version for the very first time, this comprehensive release also gathers together a selection of rare and fascinating Alice-related short films.

Special features
• Presented in both High Definition and Standard Definition
• Original Czech and alternative English-language audio
Alice in Wonderland (1903, 9 mins): the first screen adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s classic
Elsie and the Brown Bunny (1921, 8 mins, DVD only): early advertising film for Cadbury Bros. Ltd
Alice in Label Land (1974, 12 mins): animated COI film explaining the 1973 food labelling laws
Stille Nacht II: Are We Still Married? (1992, 3 mins): the Quay Brothers' Alice-inspired music film
Stille Nacht IV: Can't Go Wrong Without You (1993, 4 mins): the white rabbit returns in the second of the Quay Brothers' music films for His Name is Alive
• 34-page illustrated booklet with essays, film notes, biographies and credits

Release date: 23 May 2011
RRP: £19.99 / cat. no. BFIB1095 / Cert PG Czechoslovakia, Switzerland, UK, West Germany / 1988 / colour / Czech with optional English subtitles / 86 minutes / Original aspect ratio 1.33:1
Disc 1: BD50 / 1080p / 24fps / PCM mono audio (48k/24-bit)
Disc 2: DVD9 / PAL / PCM mono audio (48k/16-bit)

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Re: Alice (Jan Švankmajer, 1988)

#44 Post by swo17 » Tue May 03, 2011 3:05 pm

Jan Švankmajer’s Alice (Něco z Alenky) is a distinctly disturbing and creepy interpretation of Lewis Carroll’s perennial literary classic, yet it is perhaps the closest to the original work.
Though admittedly, only Tim Burton's version was daring enough to translate to the screen Carroll's haunting passage about the Mad Hatter breakdancing.

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Re: Alice (Jan Švankmajer, 1988)

#45 Post by Chance Hale » Wed May 04, 2011 3:17 am

I'm definitely importing this release but I'm a bit disappointed with the complete lack of video extras related to the production of the film. I'm not too familiar with the film's history, is there no on set material available?

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Re: Alice (Jan Švankmajer, 1988)

#46 Post by MichaelB » Wed May 04, 2011 3:01 pm

ricochetguro wrote:I'm definitely importing this release but I'm a bit disappointed with the complete lack of video extras related to the production of the film. I'm not too familiar with the film's history, is there no on set material available?
Stills aside, no. And once you read Clare Kitson's piece about its production, you'll understand why!

The film was shot under the noses of hostile Czech Communist authorities in conditions of extreme secrecy, and while stills were taken on set (the booklet includes two images of Švankmajer working on the film), there's no behind-the-scenes film or video footage to the best of my knowledge, and I'd be surprised if such a thing existed.

As far as I'm aware, the first Švankmajer film to have on-set video documentation was his 1990 short The Death of Stalinism in Bohemia, the first film he completed after the Velvet Revolution - it was a BBC co-production, so they recorded its creation for an accompanying documentary.

That said, Švankmajer talks about Alice, including showing off some of the props (and commenting on the state of advanced putrefaction of one of them) in the documentary Les Chimères des Švankmajer. But it's a pretty safe bet that hardcore Švankmajer fans will have that already, as it's included on Jan Švankmajer: The Complete Short Films - and there was little point in duplicating it when the alternative could be much rarer Alice-themed shorts. Not least because all but one of the shorts is in HD, whereas the documentary was only shot on SD video, so an upgrade would be pointless.

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Re: Alice (Jan Švankmajer, 1988)

#47 Post by MichaelB » Fri May 13, 2011 5:34 am

Mondo Digital is first off the blocks with a review, and it's a rave:
Even the film's staunchest admirers have had a very rough time actually watching it outside from rare theatrical screenings, as its English-friendly releases in Great Britain and America have been a very disappointing batch indeed. A dull, fuzzy-looking master from the late '80s has been the frequent source for most DVD releases, but most damaging is the fact that only the wildly out-of-synch English dub has been used for almost all of its home video releases around the world. In every possible respect, the BFI's region-free dual-format release (Blu-Ray and DVD) is a major cause for celebration as it features not only a stellar, dramatically improved transfer but the original Czech soundtrack with optional English subtitles as well. (Mainly for nostalgia purposes, the English dub is carried over here as well but isn't recommended to anyone but the most severe subtitle-phobes.) Detail here simply blows away previous versions so thoroughly it feels like a wholly new film; the textures in every frame are considerably more defined and subtle, while the entire film has a deeper, richer look that makes the whole experience far more potent and enjoyable. Very highly recommended without any hesitation.

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Re: Alice (Jan Švankmajer, 1988)

#48 Post by MichaelB » Fri May 13, 2011 4:10 pm

The Digital Fix also quite likes it:
In the simplest of terms Svankmajer’s films were made for HD, his approach to texture and minutiae of his creations, especially their tactile nature, make this presentation a joy to watch. Of course, such concerns as retaining the original aspect ratio (1.33:1 in this case) and soundtracks (plural, given the presence of both Czech and English language options) are all in place - this release also marks the debut of the Czech soundtrack onto disc - whilst the image is crisp, clean and entirely free from dirt or other blemishes. The colours, especially, are very strong (the greens, in particular, are breathtaking) and the detail is such that we can fully revel in Svankmajer’s distinctive approach. However, I would argue that the soundtrack is even more impressive given how it ably captures that “magnified” method the director adopts for his sound effects.

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Re: Alice (Jan Švankmajer, 1988)

#49 Post by MichaelB » Fri May 13, 2011 4:41 pm

And Cathode Ray Tube is reasonably polite too:
Beautifully restored by the BFI, this transfer brims with fine detail in a clean and blemish free image. It captures the intricate construction of the stop-motion puppets exquisitely and provides a natural and vibrant colour palette and the dilapidated settings, the rich Archimboldian cornucopia of collected objects, toys and props. A very satisfying presentation.

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Re: Alice (Jan Švankmajer, 1988)

#50 Post by MichaelB » Tue May 17, 2011 9:20 am

Rock! Shock! Pop!:
The colors are bright and vibrant but not overly saturated, the lines are clean and the lights and shadows are quite natural. The many textures of the everyday objects in this film are quite brilliantly exhibited and definitely a visual highlight. All in all, this film looks beautiful and the animation is seamless.
Lots of enlargeable framegrabs too.

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