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The Frantisek Vlacil Collection

Marketa Lazarová (1967)             Valley of the Bees (1968)

Adelheid (1970)               Sentiment (2003)

 

A 4-disc set comprising three haunting epics from the godfather of the Czech New Wave along with Tomá Hejtmánek's acclaimed 2003 documentary portrait of Vlácil. A fantastic opportunity to discover this great visionary master of world cinema. Set includes: Marketa Lazarová (1967): Voted the greatest Czech film ever made, a dark and passionate medieval epic that chronicles the doomed love affair of two young lovers set against the rivalry between two warring clans. The Valley of the Bees (1967): Set in 13th century Europe - a raw and powerful moral fable of corruption and fundamentalism. Adelheid (1969): Vlácil's first color film - an emotional tale of two lovers caught up in the bitter political and emotional aftermath of WWII. Sentiment (2003): The acclaimed documentary portrait of Vlácil - EXCLUSIVE TO THIS BOX SET.

 

 

The Frantisek Vlacil Collection

This collection represents a fabulous deal - not only do you get three marvelous Vlacil films - but the fourth disc is Tomas Hejtmanek's intimate documentary portrait of the filmmaker. We've covered Marketa Lazarová , Adelheid (1970) and The Valley of the Bees (1967) already (see below) and it makes for a decent savings to purchase via this package. Individually you'd pay Ł25.97 without the documentary - but the 4-disc set (each in individual transparent keep cases) - is only Ł14.99. We give it our strongest recommendation!

Gary W. Tooze

DVD Box Cover

 

Distribution Second Run
Region 0 - PAL



 

 

Directed by Frantisek Vlácil
Czechoslovakia 1967

 

In a survey of Czech film critics held in 1998, Marketa Lazarová was voted the best Czech film ever made. In the same year its director, František Vláčil, received a lifetime achievement award at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival. It therefore comes as something of a surprise that neither the film nor its director feature prominently in general histories of the cinema.

František Vláčil (1924-99) was not a member of the famous Czech New Wave of the 1960s, nor a product of the Prague Film School (FAMU). He originally studied art and aesthetics in Brno before working in both puppet and documentary film. This was followed by a stint in the Czech Army Film Unit, where he made over 30 instructional films and documentaries. He first attracted international attention with his poetic documentary, Skleněná oblaka (Glass Skies, 1957), which was awarded a prize at the Venice Film Festival. His fiction debut, Pronásledování (Pursuit aka Persecution), was part of a two episode feature, Vstup zakázán (No Admittance, 1959). It was followed a year later by his feature debut, Holubice (The White Dove, 1960), which won further awards at Venice, for Vláčil and his cinematographer, Jan Čuřík.

With Marketa Lazarová, Vláčil approached a novel by Vladislav Vančura, which was first published in 1931. Vančura, one of the leading Czech novelists, was a member of most of the experimental art movements of the period and was the first chair of the avant garde Devětsil group. He was also a prolific author of (unfilmed) screenplays, and had directed or co-directed five feature films in the 1930s. In his film work, he aimed to take cinema in new formal directions, experimenting with both sound and montage in such films as Na sluneční straně (On the Sunnyside, 1933) and Marijka nevěrnice (Faithless Marijka, 1934), the last of which featured acclaimed composer Bohuslav Martinů’s only film score. Vančura’s novels emphasised the poetic and experimental use of language. As a result, it presented obvious problems for film adaptation, although Jiří Menzel successfully brought two of Vančura’s other novels to the screen as comedies: Rozmarné léto (Capricious Summer, 1967) and Konec starých časů (The End of Old Times, 1989).

While Marketa Lazarová was inspired by Vančura’s novel, it remains very different. A short text has been converted into a vast epic that bears comparison, in different ways with each, to Kurosawa’s Shichinin no Samurai (Seven Samurai, 1954) and Tarkovsky’s Andrei Roublëv (1966). It was also inspired by motifs from Vančura’s Obrazy z dějin národa českého (Pictures from the History of the Czech Nation, 1939-40). And if Vančura’s original novel provided no historical clues and was designed to be autonomous, Vláčil’s film was set very specifically in the mid-13th century, a time he attempted to evoke with the utmost accuracy.

 

Peter Hames' complete Essay, from which this excerpt is taken, appears in the Booklet of the DVD release.

****

Czech filmmaker Frantisek Vlacil (1926-'99) may have been eclipsed in the West by his countrymen Milos Forman and Jiri Menzel, but his body of work from the 60s and 70s has earned him a solid reputation at home: Marketa Lazarova (1966), which kicks off a weeklong Vlacil retrospective at Facets Cinematheque, was recently voted the greatest Czech film of all time in a national critics' poll. Adapted from an experimental novel by Vladislav Vancura, it concerns the feud between two pagan clans that have fallen under the dominion of Christian German overlords in the 13th century. One clan has converted to Christianity, and its patriarch has pledged his virginal daughter Marketa (Magda Vasaryova) to a convent; the other, brutish and superstitious, abducts the young woman during a skirmish with its rivals. Episodic in structure, the film proceeds like a folk saga, but its flashbacks, flash-forwards, and abrupt cuts give it a hallucinatory quality. The iconography recalls Eisenstein's Ivan the Terrible, Bergman's The Seventh Seal, and Kurosawa's The Hidden Fortress, and the compositions can be bluntly symbolic and self-consciously arty. Yet Vlacil shot the film on location, insisting on historical authenticity, and his raw realism turns the countryside into a bleak hunting ground where new and ancient feuds settle into a tentative peace.

Excerpt from Ted Shen at the Chicago reader located HERE

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Theatrical Release: November 24th, 1967

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Marketa Lazarová is also available for a significant savings in the 4-disc Frantisek Vlacil Collection -with Adelheid (1970), The Valley of the Bees (1967) and Sentiment (2003) - Tomá Hejtmánek's acclaimed 2003 documentary portrait of the director - exclusive to the boxset.

Distribution Second Run DVD - Region 0 - PAL
Runtime 2:38:35 
Video 2.35:1 Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 5.74 mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate:

Audio Czech (Dolby Digital mono) 
Subtitles English, None
Features Release Information:
Studio: Second Run Home Video

Aspect Ratio:
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1

Edition Details:

• Liner notes booklet featuring a new Essay on the film and František Vlácil by author/film programmer Peter Hames.

DVD Release Date: December 3rd, 2007

Transparent Keep Case
Chapters: 18

 

Comments:

Competent work by Second Run - progressive, anamorphic and dual-layered for this mystic and historical masterpiece. I can't add more about the image than represented by the screen captures below - fairly clean, contrast is a shade dusty with possible minute brightness boosting - I saw no untoward artifacts or chroma. It looks quite strong - and we should be thankful a company like Second Run put this out (as opposed to, say, a Kino or NY'er in region 1). Sound is mono but the Czech dialogue is quite audible and supported by optional English subtitles.

There are no digital extras with 2.5 hour film filling the 7 Gig of the disc exporting good compression. There is a nice booklet  featuring a new essay on the film and František Vlácil by author/film programmer Peter Hames.

Wow! - what a way for Second Run to finish the year. This might easily be considered their best release ever (cinematically speaking). A tour-de-force epic evocative of Tarkovsky and the bleak black and white cinematography of barren terrain (in cinemascope) at times reminded me of Antonioni. This should get some votes for DVD of the Year even if only on the grounds of the film and its bare-bones competent transfer. It's my opinion that you must own this one folks.  

Gary W. Tooze

 



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(aka 'The Valley of the Bees')

Directed by Frantisek Vlácil
Czechoslovakia 1968

A visionary and evocative medieval epic, Vláčil’s The Valley of the Bees is just as powerful and engrossing a film as his more famous Marketa Lazarová.

It chronicles the tale of a young boy forced to join the Order of the Teutonic Knights. As he grows into a man his desire to return to his homeland leads him to abandon the Crusaders, only to be pursued by a fanatical former comrade and pay a terrible price for his rejection of the Holy Order.

With its resplendent black-and-white cinematography and highly convincing recreation of 13th-century Europe, the film is a raw and haunting moral fable which raises questions about the conflict between human nature and dogmatism.

Released just before the ’68 Russian invasion of Czechoslovakia, the film’s theme was given a political interpretation and its screenings severely restricted by the authorities.

***

Product Description: A visionary and haunting medieval epic from the director of Marketa Lazarová. Set in 13th century Europe this raw and powerful moral fable of corruption and fundamentalism chronicles the tale of a young boy made to join the Brotherhood of the Teutonic Knights and how as a man he rejects their doctrine, and the terrible price he must pay for that rejection.

Synopsis: A young man is sent to live and study with a religious order when his father takes a young bride. When the son helps one of the noble knights at the order escape, he is expelled from the institution. His friends help the young man escape as well, and he takes over as his stepmother's lover when his father dies.

Excerpt from Second Run's website located HERE

Theatrical Release: May 17th, 1968

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The Valley of the Beesis also available for a significant savings in the 4-disc Frantisek Vlacil Collection -with Adelheid (1970), Marketa Lazarová (1967) and Sentiment (2003) - Tomá Hejtmánek's acclaimed 2003 documentary portrait of the director - exclusive to the boxset.

Distribution Second Run DVD - Region 0 - PAL
Runtime 1:36:18 (4% PAL Speedup)
Video 2.35:1 Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 6.9 mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate:

Audio Czech (Dolby Digital 2.0) 
Subtitles English, None
Features Release Information:
Studio: Second Run DVD

Aspect Ratio:
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1

Edition Details:

• 20-page liner notes Booklet featuring essay by author and film programmer Peter Hames.

DVD Release Date: March 22nd, 2010

Transparent Keep Case
Chapters: 12

 

Comments:

This became available, in December 2009, in Region 1 by Facets ('nuff said) HERE in some sort of dual film packaging with Otakar Vávra's excellent Witches' Hammer. Typical of Facets quality it is reported to be a slipshod, barely watchable transfer - and overpriced at that.

Enter Second Run's dual-layered, anamorphic, progressive transfer appearing reasonably impressive in supporting the awe-inspiring visuals. The image is a shade thick, some grain and compression artifacts, good contrast and I have no reason to believe it is not faithfully reporting the source elements that must have been in acceptable condition (40+ year-old film here folks). The region free DVD is in the original 2.35:1 aspect ratio and rendered in the PAL standard.

The flat 2.0 channel audio is fairly consistent without any extensive depth or range. There are, complete, optional English subtitles. Supplements consist of a 20-page liner notes booklet featuring essay by author and film programmer Peter Hames.

This magnificent Czech New Wave entry made me reflect on Paradjanov, Kurosawa, and especially Tarkovsky. Second Run continue to expose these important, under-seen, films to a whole new audience - of which I count myself lucky - and this is really worthy of shelf-space in any cinephile's digital library. This film and DVD are strongly recommended at this reasonable price!  

Gary W. Tooze

 


 

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Directed by Frantisek Vlácil
Czechoslovakia 1970

 

The first colour film by Czech master director Franti ek Vlácil ADELHEID is an emotional tale of two lovers trapped in the march of history. In the aftermath of WWII, a Czech airman returns home from his tour of duty with the British RAF, intending to claim a German factory located in the Sudetenland along the Czech-German border. There he meets the beautiful Adelheid, the former owner's daughter who once lived in the estate but is now reduced to servitude. The Czech airman falls in love with Adelheid, but lingering resentment and bitter political strife stand in the way of their happiness.

***

This 1969 chamber drama by Czech director Frantisek Vlacil serves as a parable for the tense and resentful relations between Czechs and Germans after World War II. A Czech officer (Petr Cepek) acquires an estate on the Bohemian border once occupied by a German family; its patriarch has been imprisoned for crimes against the locals, and the man's daughter (Emma Cerna) becomes servant and love interest for the new occupant. Heavy symbolism and arty compositions weigh the film down, but I was intrigued by the psychological cat and mouse between the two leads, kindred spirits separated by language and history.

Excerpt from Ted Shen at The Chicago Reader website located HERE

 

Poster
 

Theatrical Release: April 6th, 1970

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DVD Review: Second Run - Region 0 - PAL

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Adelheid is also available for a significant savings in the 4-disc Frantisek Vlacil Collection - with Marketa Lazarová (1967), The Valley of the Bees (1967) and Sentiment (2003) - Tomá Hejtmánek's acclaimed 2003 documentary portrait of the director - exclusive to the boxset.

Distribution Second Run DVD - Region 0 - PAL
Runtime 1:38:15 (4% PAL Speedup)
Video 1.33:1 Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 6.56 mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate:

Audio Czech | German (Dolby Digital 2.0) 
Subtitles English, None
Features Release Information:
Studio: Second Run DVD

Aspect Ratio:
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1

Edition Details:
• 16-page booklet featuring a new essay by author Peter Hames

DVD Release Date: August 23rd, 2010

Transparent Keep Case
Chapters: 8

 

Comments:

Second Run continue to amaze by introducing fabulous world cinema that I was previously unaware. It perpetuates the truism that the journey never ends. This is a wonderful political love-story - great characters and the setting was extremely quaint and comfortable. Adelheid is filled with symbolic references which add further layers to the intriguing plot.

I suspect this dual-layered DVD edition from Second Run handily advances upon the overpriced, interlaced, single-layered, incorrect standards US Facets edition found HERE. It looks to be a bit frail with a touch of edge enhancement (possibly on the source) but this was only noticeable in extensive zooming in.  For the most part the visuals showcase impressive detail. Colors are a little dullish but on my system it looked outstanding - augmented by Frantisek Ulrich's interesting and occasionally obtuse-angled cinematography. This DVD is region free, progressive, in the original 1.33:1 aspect ratio and rendered in the PAL standard.  

The flat 2.0 channel audio is fairly consistent but not an impacting part of the presentation. Dialogue is clear. There are, well rendered, optional English subtitles. The only supplement is a 16-page booklet featuring a new essay by author Peter Hames. There are no digital extras.

 

If you haven't seen other offerings by the director you should consider that Adelheid is also available for a significant savings in the 4-disc Frantisek Vlacil Collection - with Marketa Lazarová (1967), The Valley of the Bees (1967) and Sentiment (2003) - Tomá Hejtmánek's acclaimed 2003 documentary portrait of Vlacil (also a renowned painter and graphic artist) - exclusive to the boxset! Regardless, this entry in his oeuvre is strongly recommended. I feel very encouraged to find more of his work and hope Second Run continue their eclectic and fascinating DVD releases. They have produced some real gems and I am highly appreciative. 

Gary W. Tooze

 


 

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directed by Tomas Hejtmanek
Czech Republic 200
3

 

Tomas Hejtmanek peers the camera's gaze on filmmaker Frantisek Vlácil culled from hours of taped interviews, reconstructions of meetings (played by Jirí Kodet as Vlácil died before filming began), visits to film locations and Vlácil-inspired sequences. It produces an intimate snapshot of the enigmatic and curiously inspiring director.

Theatrical Release: October 24th, 2003 (Jihlava Film Festival)

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DVD Review: Second Run - Region 0 - PAL

Runtime 1:10:45
Video

2.35:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 7.93 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate:

 

Audio Czech (Dolby Digital 5.1), Czech (Dolby Digital 2.0)
Subtitles English, None
Features Release Information:
Studio: Second Run

Aspect Ratio:
Fullscreen -
2.35:1

Edition Details:
• None

DVD Release Date: Only available in Second Run's Frantisek Vlácil Collection - available on September 13th, 2010
Transparent Keep Case

Chapters 6

  

 

Comments:

Not much to say - its a single-layered, progressive and anamorphic transfer in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio. The image is imperfect but probably reflects the limits of production and archival footage utilized. The DVD offers 5.1 or 2.0 channel stereo sound in Czech with optional English subtitles for the 1-hour 10-minute film. There are no extras but this represents the film well enough to appreciate the unique documentary. Sentiment is a perfect inclusion in Second Run's The Frantisek Vlacil Collection.

Gary W. Tooze

 



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Distribution Second Run
Region 0 - PAL



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