Jan Svankmajer's Alice (1988/BFI Blu-ray/DVD Combo Dual Format import
B- Film: B-
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
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:
- David Milchick