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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is no Pixar..., 21 Jun 2010
This review is from: Jan Svankmajer - The Complete Short Films [DVD] (DVD)
On the back of this monumental release from the BFI there is a quote from Anthony Lane of The New Yorker:

"The world is divided into two unequal camps: those who have never heard of Jan Svankmajer...and those who happen upon his work and know that they have come face to face with genius."

A more truthful statement is found nowhere else. Though Svankmajer's work is known only to a few it is wonderfully refreshing that the BFI took the time (and probably money) to make his entire body of short films available to the public. Spread over 2 discs and running from 1964-1992, these 26 films are the finest examples of Surrealist animation you can get. This is truly bizarre stuff and most likely will not appeal to those used to, say, Pixar/Disney. The total lack of computer imagery means that the films have a very tactile, palpable feel -- you can actually SEE the fingermarks in the clay.

The films themselves are, of course, highly imaginative and each one evokes very different emotions, whether it be the madcap routines of The Last Trick or the brutally creative deaths in Virile Games. Nearly all of them illustrate the Surrealist principal of the inanimate object come to life in the everyday world: here chunks of meat get up and dance, there a sailor-suit floats around a nursery, heads made of mundane objects devour each other in homage to Arcimboldo. Despite the ever-present forces of the Communists in Czechoslovakia (as explained in one of the documentaries on the third disc) it is incredible to think how Svankmajer and his team of animators were still able to create this little odities. The films are also rife with references to literature favoured by the Surrealists, such as Poe and Walpole, and artists such as the aforementioned Arcimboldo.

The third disc contains 2 lengthy documentaries, the most notable being The Cabinet of Jan Svankmajer which features animated segments by the Brothers Quay. The presence of the trailer of Svankmajer's latest feature-length film, Lunacy, made me realise how his other feature-lengths such as Alice and Faust are not readily available in this country (those that are are difficult to come by); here's to hoping that the BFI decide to give those a release too. Still, this collection is extremely welcomed by this Svankmajer fan.

Good work BFI!
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77 of 80 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another kind of love, 10 Jun 2007
This review is from: Jan Svankmajer - The Complete Short Films [DVD] (DVD)
At last! The finest collection of Svankmajer short films yet! If anybody can make it, the BFI in London has already released the set - I have my copy - before the official release date of 25th June.

It doesn't disappoint - the original version of the Ossuary is in here with the soundtrack that was banned upon release in 1970 - well worth seeing for the irascible 'tour guide'.

Special features include the first film that Svankmajer worked on - Johannes Doktor Faust (1958), excerpts from Nick Carter in Prague (1977), a French documentary - Les Chimeres des Svankmajer (2001), an interview for Czech TV in 2001, the homage to Jan Svankmajer by the Brothers Quay - The Cabinet of Jan Svankmajer (1984) and a trailer for Sileni (Lunacy).

This is the ultimate collection of shorts and more than lives up to expectations. Having loved Svankmajer since Channel 4 started showing his films in the UK in the 80s, this collection has been long overdue, and thankfully the wait is over.

Complete Listings:

*Disc One*

The Last Trick (1964)

JS Bach - Fantasy in G Minor (1965)

A Game with Stones (1965)

Punch and Judy (1966)

Et Cetera (1966)

Historia, Naturae, Suita (1967)

The Garden (1968)

The Flat (1968)

Picnic with Weissman (1968)

A Quiet Week in the House (1969)

Don Juan (1969)

The Ossuary (1970) (Both versions)

Jabberwocky (1971)

Leonardo's Diary (1972)

*Disc Two*

The Castle of Otranto (1979)

The Fall of the House of Usher (1980)

Dimensions of Dialogue (1982)

Down to the Cellar (1983)

The Pendulum, the Pit and Hope (1983)

Virile Games (1988)

Another Kind of Love (1988)

Meat Love (1988)

Darkness-Light-Darkness (1989)

Flora (1989)

The Death of Stalinism in Bohemia (1990)

Food (1992)

*Disc Three - Extras*

Johannes Doktor Faust (1958)

Nick Carter in Prague (1977, excerpts)

The Cabinet of Jan Svankmajer (1984)

Les Chimeres des Svankmajer (2001)

Czech TV Interview (2001)

Lunacy trailer (2005)
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Plethora Of Dreamlike Excursions, 16 Jun 2010
This review is from: Jan Svankmajer - The Complete Short Films [DVD] (DVD)
The work of Jan Svankmajer is a collaboration of surrealistic imagery in the realms of magic and alchemy which induces a nightmarish spectre created from the usage of: claymation, stop-motion, drawn animation, puppet theatre, live action, cut-outs and montages. This incredible collection includes all of his shorts from 1964 - 1992 and it contains a glut of extras with a fresh examination on his unique blend of strangeness.

Some of these shorts are similar, in essence, to Peter Gabriel's Slegdehammer video; Svankmajer infuses a wide range of objects with a spirit that transcends them from the ordinary objects they are into incredible phantasms of mysterious intrigue. Others, incorporate the the painstaking process employed by Nick Park for his Wallace and Gromit escapades. His award winning short, Dimensions Of Dialogue, was placed in Terry Gilliam's top ten animations of all time. As well as Gilliam, Svankmajer has played a key role in influencing a host of filmmakers including the dark and twisted worlds created by Tim Burton in Vincent and Corpse Bride. If you enjoyed any of these animation styles there's a strong possibility you'll enjoy Svankmajer's work.

Some of the earliest shorts do have a minute crackling sound and show signs of staircasing artifacts but the rest of the prints display no signs of ware and have been superbly transferred; mainly in 4:3 fullscreen but a few have been anamorphically enhanced. Included is optional english subtitles for the dialogue that are easy to read and, more importantly, unobtrusive.

Svankmajer's plethora of dreamlike excursions embodies Plato's scholarly definition of rhetoric: "the art of enchanting the soul", and provides the perfect platform for an intense night of adulterating the mind with this reagent; if thats your ticket, of course! This collection is, metaphorically speaking, a visual analogy to a haunting drum that some viewers won't be able to hear; but, if this is your rhythm, the dark and often disturbing images will be a dancer.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Animated intrigue, 21 Jun 2008
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S. Bentley "stuarthoratiobentley" (North Yorkshire) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Jan Svankmajer - The Complete Short Films [DVD] (DVD)
For those who are unsure what they'll be getting with this, as I was...

A mixture of live action and stop-motion animation, Svankmajer's work is more surrealistic than anything else. It's not the jolly work of Aardman, all plasticine and comedy winks (good as that is), Svankmajer's work always seems to be referencing darker experiences. An example would be a couple of battling entertainers who both have giant papier mache heads like Frank Sidebottom. One produces a fish from his hat, opens the top of his head, puts the fish inside (his head is full of cogs and gears) and pulls out just the skeleton. The other opens his head to reveal a violin inside and so on. Or a game of stones, which has a clock dispensing pebbles that then form faces etc. Or a Punch and Joey, not Judy, show, in which the two puppets haggle over the sale of a guinea pig and end up beating each other to death with hammers.

It's cracking animation, but it is also very much art, so what meaning you get from it is dependent on how much you are willing to read into it. Certainly recommended.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Eye opener... literally!, 29 Nov 2010
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This review is from: Jan Svankmajer - The Complete Short Films [DVD] (DVD)
If you don't know Svankmajer's work then it would be difficult to describe it. Think of a dark and scary version of 'Morph' or Peter Gabriel's 'Sledgehammer' pop video. You'll be somewhere near the ball park.

However, any one interested in surrealism or animation will fall over backwards at this DVD package. Although I was a fan of Jan Svankmajer, I had no idea how prolific his work has been. From animation to puppetry, shadow figures and film montage, he covers it all. Although not all are as tight as each other, the collection is fulfilling and exciting. Given how reclusive he is, the extra interviews and 'making of' are also very impressive. It has been well put together and I find it difficult to fault it (although a connection to other earlier influences wouldn't have gone a miss).

Great films on a great DVD package. Easily worth the 5 stars.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Greatest, 10 April 2011
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Dan & Tues "........" (The Hague, Netherlands) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Jan Svankmajer - The Complete Short Films [DVD] (DVD)
I promise I'm not one of those who easily throws around superlatives, but this is one of the finest collections of short films I've ever known, and the BFI has compiled it beautifully (here's hoping for a Blu-Ray in the not-too-distant future).

Svankmajer's short films are arguably more rewarding and fascinating than most of his feature films. They are dense and intense, so they give a strong dose of the filmmaker's feverish imaginings, and tightly structured. They are brazenly intellectual and broadly referential, but never entirely inscrutable or obscure. At their best (e.g. Jabberwocky, Dimensions of Dialogue, The Garden) they are like incantations, riveting compilations of occult imagery, grotesque animation and haunted objects. Svankmajer draws no distinction between dreams and nightmares, between illusions and reality. They repay repeat reviewings, and once you're smitten with these films, chances are you'll want to have them in your life forever.
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16 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Genius, 19 Jun 2007
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A Reader (Brighton, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Jan Svankmajer - The Complete Short Films [DVD] (DVD)
OMG! I've been waiting years for this release. I've seen most of these films and they are utterly wonderful. But I've never seen (e.g.) The Castle of Otranto before, and I can't wait. Please do listen out for the music; for the most part the scores were composed by the brilliant Zdenek Liska, and the pairing of Svankmajer and Liska was one of the most forceful and effective in the annals of cinema.

This is an UNMISSABLE release and an incredible bargain.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A superb compilation of Svankmajer's works, 3 Jan 2014
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This review is from: Jan Svankmajer - The Complete Short Films [DVD] (DVD)
This is the work of a genius, who has influenced artists all over the world. It is incredible that so many people are not familiar with his name and work.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Not really my thing - but . . ., 11 Jan 2013
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This review is from: Jan Svankmajer - The Complete Short Films [DVD] (DVD)
If you warm to Svankmajer I think you will regard this as absolutely cracking value. It didn't really float my boat, but then I am a bit too traditional in my tastes.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Review, 28 Sep 2010
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This review is from: Jan Svankmajer - The Complete Short Films [DVD] (DVD)
Definitive BFI offering on this master of the short film genre who has inspired many of the best people in this field.

A must for anybody interested in European short film with a mixture of cartoon,anamorphism,surrealism and general of the wall marvellous wierdness !!

The add-ons are informative and worth the price anyway.
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