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Category:    Home > Reviews > Fantasy > Literature > Stop Motion Animation > Jan Svankmajer's Alice (1988/BFI Blu-ray/DVD Combo Dual Format import release)

Jan Svankmajer's Alice (1988/BFI Blu-ray/DVD Combo Dual Format import release)

Picture: A-     Sound: B+     Extras: B-     Film: B-


PLEASE NOTE: Alice is a Region Free import Blu-ray that can be ordered directly from our friends at BFI at the link at the end of this review and will play on all players worldwide.  The DVD included is Region Two PAL and can only play on machines that can handle that version of the format.

 


Here we have Jan Svankmajer's first feature length film and almost certainly his most popular piece of work - Alice.  The piece is a unique interpretation of the Lewis Carroll classic and appeals to the side of us that loves the bizarre and grotesque.  While the visuals are occasionally disturbing, it is still harmless enough that a younger audience could watch and might appreciate it on a different level.  Then again, they might just get nightmares.

The character of Alice is portrayed by a young actress while all of the inhabitants of her imaginary world are animated through stop motion and traditional puppeteering.  It is well known that Svankmajer used real animal skeletons and skins for several of the stop motion puppets, and though that may put some people off, it is not carried out in an offensive way, but animal lovers should consider themselves forewarned.

Although appearing to be crude on the surface, much of the animation is quite impressive and should have led to a resurgence in the use and experimentation with stop motion; sadly, with CG just around the corner, the art form would mostly disappear from feature films within a few short years.

The events of the film follow Alice in her adventures through Wonderland, but stray from the book by omitting several characters and scenes, yet keeping the sprit of the work intact.  As said earlier, it is still accessible to children and nothing gruesome or otherwise inappropriate takes place.  Whether or not it was intentionally left open to a wider audience, this version of the story is better and more interesting than other recent "adult" takes on the character.  Oftentimes these versions try too hard at being subversive but are instead uninspired and boring.

Alice has never been better than it is on this Dual Format edition release from BFI.  When compared to older copies, the differences are incredible.  Chief among them is the major leap forward in picture quality, which has been improved so dramatically that watching an older DVD of the film now feels as though you're seeing the screen with a cheesecloth draped over your eyes.  Sound has also been much improved from prior releases, and the annoying English dub is now optional.

From a great 35mm film source, the image is presented in 1080p High Definition on the Blu-ray disc, with the original 1.33:1 aspect ratio intact and it is stunning.  Audio is in 2.0 PCM Mono lossless mixes in both (separate) Czech and English with English subtitles optional.  While the Blu-ray is region free, one must be mindful that the DVD included with the set is not, and requires a PAL-enabled player.

Extras are excellent and plentiful, with the 1903 Alice in Wonderland shown in its entirety, as well as several Alice-related shorts and promos.  A booklet that includes essays and an interview with Jan Svankmajer is part of the package as well, and makes an excellent companion to a viewing of the film, with plenty of insight as well as some rather nice stills.

Picking up this set is highly recommended and Alice is sure to be a highlight for any animation collector's library; the Blu-ray format needs more sets as well put together as this, and hopefully someone will see to it that more of Svankmajer's features get released in such lavish fashion.


To order Alice, here is the link:

 

http://filmstore.bfi.org.uk/acatalog/info_19517.html

 

 

-   David Milchick


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