BD 31 CzechMate: In Search of Jiří Menzel

Discuss DVDs and Blu-rays released by Second Run and the films on them.
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Grand Wazoo
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BD 31 CzechMate: In Search of Jiří Menzel

#1 Post by Grand Wazoo » Tue Sep 11, 2018 9:33 am

I think it's about time Second Run releases a 7 1/2 hour film.

EDIT: Holy shit, I posted that before finishing the article:
The documentary will eventually have a Blu-ray release on the British label Second Run. “I wanted to discover everything about the period – it was like going to a library and taking every single thing down,” Dungarpur said. “The film is my PhD, in a way. It’s a museum piece.”

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MichaelB
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Re: Recommendations for Second Run

#2 Post by MichaelB » Tue Sep 11, 2018 9:42 am

Given that Second Run has already released Dungarpur's Celluloid Man, that can't have come as a massive surprise!


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What A Disgrace
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Re: BD 31 CzechMate: In Search of Jiří Menzel

#4 Post by What A Disgrace » Thu May 21, 2020 1:41 pm

Two disc set coming June 29, Amazon pre-order is up.

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swo17
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Re: BD 31 CzechMate: In Search of Jiří Menzel

#5 Post by swo17 » Thu May 21, 2020 1:56 pm

Including a couple of Menzel's shorts!

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knives
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Re: BD 31 CzechMate: In Search of Jiří Menzel

#6 Post by knives » Thu May 21, 2020 2:39 pm

They're pretty good shorts too.

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MichaelB
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Re: BD 31 CzechMate: In Search of Jiří Menzel

#7 Post by MichaelB » Wed May 27, 2020 9:36 am

I've had a sneak preview, and if you're even the tiniest bit interested in Sixties Czech and Slovak cinema, it's a no-brainer.

Although I'm not sure how accessible it is if you approach it in a state of complete ignorance - it assumes upfront that you know who Jiří Menzel, Miloš Forman, Věra Chytilová et al are (and the writer Bohumil Hrabal, who unsurprisingly looms large in a doc about his greatest screen interpreter), that you're broadly familiar with the chronology of the Czechoslovak New Wave from 1964-70 (the film's structure is more thematic than chronological, so - for instance - key early works like Forman's Black Peter and A Blonde in Love get mentioned comparatively late), that you know at least something about the Prague Spring and the subsequent Soviet invasion and two-decade "normalisation", and ideally you should probably watch at least one Menzel film beforehand, with Closely Observed Trains being the most obvious one (not least because there's a humungous spoiler within the first hour).

But if you tick all or even most of those boxes, you're in for an absolute treat. And I can see why Dungarpur picked Menzel as his main focus, because he's onscreen for a fair chunk of the running time and is always immensely engaging company - and in many ways he's the quintessentially "Czech" director, something that's perhaps more obvious when engaging with later, lesser-known films like Cutting It Short (1980), Snowdrop Festival (1983) and the surprise Oscar nominee My Sweet Little Village (1985), whose rural Czechness is baked into every frame. You don't need to have seen any of these, by the way; Dungarpur seems to assume that you haven't, which is probably wise. (Although Cutting It Short in particular is up there with Menzel's best films - it was a huge cultural phenomenon in Czechoslovakia that for some reason doesn't seem to have translated into significant international distribution.)

I was especially impressed by the way that Slovak filmmakers were given a surprising amount of screen time given that Menzel has no obvious Slovak cultural connections - but this is as much a Scorsese-style personal journey through Sixties Czech and Slovak cinema as it is a portrait of Menzel per se. Although, unlike the Scorsese docs, Dungarpur is largely invisible - I think we see him on camera just once in the full seven-and-a-half hours*, and there are occasional fourth-wall-breaking moments like the bit where he's trying to secure an interview with a grumpy Dušan Hanák (the grumpiness, thankfully, being caused by a misunderstanding), but otherwise the story is told by people who were mostly there at the time, plus longstanding experts like Peter Hames and occasional foreign filmmakers like István Szabó (a longstanding Menzel friend - they've acted in each other's films), Emir Kusturica, Andrzej Wajda, Agnieszka Holland and Ken Loach, who affirms yet again that Closely Observed Trains and A Blonde in Love had an incalculable impact on his own work. Oh, and Woody Allen unexpectedly pops up in the middle.

(*Second Run's encode runs 7 hours 27 minutes at 24fps. I've no idea where the IMDB's "480 minutes" came from, and can only assume that it's down to someone taking the phrase "an eight-hour documentary" too literally.)

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tenia
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Re: BD 31 CzechMate: In Search of Jiří Menzel

#8 Post by tenia » Wed May 27, 2020 10:10 am

Is it accessible if you have a very low level of knowledge about Czech cinema and New Wave (not zero but not much) ?

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MichaelB
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Re: BD 31 CzechMate: In Search of Jiří Menzel

#9 Post by MichaelB » Wed May 27, 2020 10:15 am

Menzel is such an engaging interviewee that I suspect it's going to be pretty easy to just go with the flow at first and worry about making sense of it later. Although I definitely recommend watching Closely Observed Trains beforehand - it was a viewing of that particular film that inspired Dungarpur to make his documentary in the first place.

But that's the only individual film that I think viewers probably should watch in advance - in extremis, you could simply use something like this as a primer in order to get your bearings. In fact, I see that Dungarpur managed to get interviews with everyone mentioned in paragraph two who hadn't died prior to production (so no Elo Havetta, Jaromil Jireš, Pavel Juráček or Evald Schorm), although sadly five of the people in that list that he did interview have since passed away. Although thankfully Menzel himself is still with us following a recent health scare.

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knives
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Re: BD 31 CzechMate: In Search of Jiří Menzel

#10 Post by knives » Wed May 27, 2020 10:30 am

That sounds so incredibly exciting. I loved the previous Dungarpur film released by Second Run, I've found myself quoting it a surprising amount, and this sounds even more up my alley.

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tenia
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Re: BD 31 CzechMate: In Search of Jiří Menzel

#11 Post by tenia » Wed May 27, 2020 12:46 pm

Thanks Michael. I'm most likely going to review it and I can't see myself reviewing it without having bare minimums about its content. It seems like I should do OK.

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MichaelB
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Re: BD 31 CzechMate: In Search of Jiří Menzel

#12 Post by MichaelB » Thu May 28, 2020 6:55 am

MichaelB wrote:
Wed May 27, 2020 9:36 am
(Although Cutting It Short in particular is up there with Menzel's best films - it was a huge cultural phenomenon in Czechoslovakia that for some reason doesn't seem to have translated into significant international distribution.)
Out of curiosity, I looked up the IMDB reviews - mostly 10/10 raves, until you get to the bottom, where there are three resoundingly negative takes from people who've clearly never set foot in the Czech Republic and the cultural gap is unbridgeably wide. Someone even thinks that the narration is evidence of artistic failure, rather than a practical way of being able to quote Bohumil Hrabal's unique prose style* directly - Closely Observed Trains does the same, of course, especially at the start.

The clips in Dungarpur's doc are a marked advance on my old Czech DVD, and I'd love this to get a full-on Blu-ray restoration. Given its reputation back home, I daresay there's every chance of it happening at some point.

(*My first Czech teacher was a massive fan of Hrabal, and we once spent an entire lesson going through the opening page of a Hrabal story, word by word, with him translating it absolutely literally and explaining how complex the wordplay is, and therefore how hard it is to convey in English. Being able to read Hrabal in the original - a ton of his work has yet to be translated - is one of my major impetuses for sticking with the language, although I ruefully suspect it's ultimately a Withnail & I-style situation where you have to be the exact same nationality as the author in order to truly grasp every nuance, and I'll ultimately never be able to manage that. Basically, the situation that Gilbert Adair flagged up when he reviewed Alain Resnais' The Same Old Song, which he said underlined the fact that while he'd long considered himself to be wholly bilingual, he wasn't truly bicultural, and the film's use of popular chansons resonated with French viewers in a way that they could never do with him. But even in English, Hrabal is a joy to read - he's hands down one of the twentieth century's most original writers, and it's easy to see why Czechs prefer him to the more internationally friendly likes of Milan Kundera.)

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knives
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Re: BD 31 CzechMate: In Search of Jiří Menzel

#13 Post by knives » Thu May 28, 2020 8:43 am

Sounds a lot like Juan Rulfo who is respected in Mexico as their greatest author, but who is barely heard of outside. His prose style is more straightforward than Hrabal sounds, but Rulfo puts in so many cultural allusions per letter that the magic of the prose depends entirely on knowing Mexico's history from revolution to revolution so on and so forth.

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MichaelB
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Re: BD 31 CzechMate: In Search of Jiří Menzel

#14 Post by MichaelB » Thu May 28, 2020 8:59 am

Gyula Krúdy (author of Szindbád) is a Hungarian example. I gather that Krúdy is uniquely hard to translate because, to quote the writer John Lukacs:
Krúdy is a deeply Hungarian writer. That quality has nothing to do with nationalism (the mistaken belief of many a populist), though it has much to do with the older, more traditional virtues of patriotism. His prose is poetic, and profoundly national, soaked with history, with images, associations, including not only words but rhythms recognizable only to Hungarians, and among them only to those whose imaginative antennae naturally vibrate not only with such words and their sounds but with what those descriptions historically – yes, historically – represent.
Lukacs goes on to say "That is why his translations require unusual talents", but the bottom line is that this stuff is essentially untranslatable in a form that precisely matches what a Hungarian reader would get out of it, and indeed most of Krúdy's writing remains untranslated a century later despite his stature at home.

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Bikey
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Re: BD 31 CzechMate: In Search of Jiří Menzel

#15 Post by Bikey » Mon Jun 01, 2020 5:28 am

Preorder now just £16.99 at Amazon UK

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MichaelB
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Re: BD 31 CzechMate: In Search of Jiří Menzel

#16 Post by MichaelB » Mon Jun 01, 2020 5:49 am

That's less than 4p a minute, which is an absolute bargain. For a normal-length feature you'd be paying around 20p.

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swo17
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Re: BD 31 CzechMate: In Search of Jiří Menzel

#17 Post by swo17 » Mon Jun 01, 2020 9:40 am

Unfortunately, U.S. customers can't currently order it

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Bikey
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Re: BD 31 CzechMate: In Search of Jiří Menzel

#18 Post by Bikey » Mon Jun 01, 2020 3:04 pm

swo17 wrote:
Mon Jun 01, 2020 9:40 am
Unfortunately, U.S. customers can't currently order it
You can order from our webstore for worldwide shipping

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What A Disgrace
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Re: BD 31 CzechMate: In Search of Jiří Menzel

#19 Post by What A Disgrace » Mon Jun 01, 2020 6:15 pm

I hope Zavvi will have it up for pre-order soon.

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