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S E A R C H    D V D B e a v e r

(aka 'Larks on a String')

Directed by Jirí Menzel
Czechoslovakia 19

Shot in 1969, but banned by the Czech government until the fall of the Communist regime in 1990, Menzel s wry comic drama is a hymn to humanity and nonconformity. The film s principal characters are residents of a state-run junkyard / labour camp for those whose actions have been deemed counter-revolutionary . On one side of the yard live the men, most sent here for re-education . On the other side, are a group of women interned for the crime of attempted defection. Separately, the two groups lazily toil, sorting out piles of scrap metal (one huge pile is nothing less than a veritable mountain of crucifixes and religious icons); together, they flirt, philosophize, and occasionally sneak off behind the hillocks of slag to make love. Larks on a String is at once a stinging indictment of the repressive politics of Czechoslovakia's past, and an endearing comedy and affecting love story.


It is little wonder that this film was withheld from release by the communist government of Czechoslovakia from 1969 to its release in 1990 at the Berlin Film Festival. What's amazing is that it was made at all and that, having been made, it survived to be shown. The story concerns the irrepressible goodness of people imprisoned by the government in labour camps, as they struggle against all odds to retain their humanity. The story focuses on two small groups of prisoners: one of men, the other of women. They have been imprisoned for such apparently minor crimes as attempting to find out what has happened to missing loved ones. The two groups manage to interact and some romance even springs up between them. From time to time, prisoners are spirited away in a mysterious black car, never to be seen again. Reviewers were lavish in their praise of this film, which is funny, bitter, satirical, allegorical, and rich with imagery that is particularly meaningful to those who endured similar privations through living under repressive regimes.

Theatrical Release: February 1990 - Berlin International Film Festival

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DVD Review: Second Run - Region 0 - PAL

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Distribution Second Run DVD - Region 0 - PAL
Runtime 1:30:24 (4% PAL Speedup)
Video 1.78:1 Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 6.89 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.


Audio Czech (Dolby Digital 2.0) 
Subtitles English, None

Release Information:
Studio: Second Run DVD

Aspect Ratio:
Aspect Ratio 1.78:1

Edition Details:

• Jirí Menzel: 7 Questions (9:32)
• 16-page booklet featuring and a new extended essay by author and film programmer Peter Hames and an introduction by DoP Jaromír Šofr

DVD Release Date: March 14th, 2011

Transparent Keep Case
Chapters: 12



Firstly this is a wonderfully amusing film. Definitely this Eastern European satire an acquired taste.  Still I can't see anyone who doesn't attempt to give over to it - not settled-in with an occasional large grin. unique  Typical of Second Run - the DVD is region free, progressive, in the 1.78:1 aspect ratio and rendered in the PAL standard. It looks a bit flat and there is some, reasonably unnoticeable, edge-enhancement. This didn't deter my viewing experience in the least bit - I had some real relaxing fun with Larks on a String. There may have been some digital manipulation in the clean-up - but I expect many fans of world cinema will still embrace it as I did.

The flat 2.0 channel audio is fairly consistent but not a big part of the presentation. There are, complete, optional English subtitles. Supplements include Jiří Menzel: 7 Questions – an idiosyncratic reflection on the film and its history, newly shot by the director specially for this DVD release and a 16-page booklet featuring and a new extended essay by author and film programmer Peter Hames and an introduction by DoP Jaromír Šofr.

This Czech masterpieces end up being so hard to describe but anyone familiar with the unique style will enjoy Larks on a String immensely. I'm so happy that Second Run exist - this is the only English-friendly release available and the film is so worthy of an audience. Despite any imperfections in the transfer - this Golden Bear winning film and DVD are highly recommended!  

Gary W. Tooze



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