BFI Video have announced the UK DVD release of Jan Svankmajer: The Complete Short Films on 25th June 2007 priced at £29.99. Described as “the most comprehensive DVD collection ever assembled of all 26 short films by Czech Surrealist filmmaker-animator Jan Svankmajer", this release from the BFI features nearly eight hours of material, compiled on three discs and packaged in a deluxe digipack with a lavish 54-page illustrated booklet.
Drawing on a tradition of Surrealism based in the capital of magic and alchemy - Prague - Svankmajer uses a range of techniques, combining live action, puppet theatre, stop-motion and drawn animation, claymation, cut-outs, re-edited archive footage and montage. 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.
Described in the press release as “a truly must-have item for any Svankmajer fan”, the release follows a visit by the director to BFI Southbank on 29 May to discuss his work, after a preview of his latest film Lunacy. Lunacy opens for a two-week run on 1 June, part of a complete Jan Svankmajer retrospective season at BFI Southbank from 1 - 16 June, a selection of which will then go on tour.
Compiled by BFI Screenonline's Michael Brooke, who also produced last year's highly acclaimed release Quay Brothers: The Short Films 1979-2003, the DVD collection spans almost 30 years, from The Last Trick (1964) to Food (1992). All the classics are included - Punch and Judy, The Flat, Jabberwocky, Dimensions of Dialogue, Down to the Cellar and both versions of The Ossuary (with the original banned tour-guide soundtrack and the replacement music track), alongside many British video premieres. It even contains the music video made for former Stranglers front man Hugh Cornwell (Another Kind of Love) and two 'Art Breaks' created for MTV.
The third disc of two-and-a-half hours of extra material includes a bonus short, Johanes Doktor Faust (1958); the original 54-minute version of The Cabinet of Jan Svankmajer (1984) with a brand new introduction by the Quay Brothers; the French documentary Les Chimères des Svankmajer (2001); interviews with Jan and Eva Svankmajer and examples of their work in other media. There's also a chance to see some Svankmajer special effects, created for commercial Czech features when he was banned from making his own films. The 54-page booklet includes an introduction to Svankmajer by Michael O'Pray; detailed film notes by Michael Brooke, Simon Field, Michael O'Pray, Julian Petley, A.L. Rees and Philip Strick; notes on the extras and much more.
... Just to ensure that the collection contains footage from all five features.
The shorts have been digitally remastered and are presented in their original aspect ratios (4:3 with the exception of Svankmajer’s only non 4:3 film, J.S.Bach – Fantasy in G Minor which is presented 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen). We’re also told that everything throughout the set is native PAL (unlike the US releases, which were PAL>NTSC conversions).
Audio is Dolby 2.0 (a mixture of Czech, French and English dialogue) with optional English and Hard of Hearing subtitles (including extras).
Artwork (sans BBFC ratings) and menus follow...
Discs 1 and 2 have half a dozen themed programmes, which are a halfway house between 'Play All' and selecting individual titles...