Jan Svankmajer Discs Now Available!

The British Film Institute has just released its triple-DVD set of Jan Svankmajer: The Complete Short Films, and this is what Marina Warner has to say about it in tehgraun:

“26 extraordinary works so far, they unfold his artistry and his preoccupations with rare richness, and have been annotated by an admiring group of critics and film historians. So this set of short films is a marvellous and invaluable collection.”

Yes, indeed, yes indeed – Svankmajer’s Dimensions of Dialogue may be the best short animated film that there is, and many of the others are not bad at all – and there are special reasons at the Stoa for celebrating the release of the set:  it’s been assembled, put together, produced, hand-tooled (I’m not really sure what the appropriate verb is) by my brother Michael. So well done him.

My Film Career

My goodness. They’ve been talking about me and boxing in last week’s Observer:

The film [Blue Blood] is effortlessly stolen by a cameo appearance from [Chris] Kavanagh’s philosophy tutor. ‘He asked if I could go and watch him get his face smashed in, but it was short notice and I was busy. Usually am,’ says Chris Brooke, who is also the author of the highly recommended blog Virtual Stoa.

‘Everyone who watches the film thinks he’s absolutely hilarious,’ says Kavanagh, ‘and the sort of person you only really find at Oxford. He’s from this incredibly aristocratic family yet is a socialist. He just wanders around being Chris Brooke. He’s a legend.’

And one who has now been immortalised in, of all things, a boxing movie which, thanks to Riley’s direction and the charm and passion of the contestants, is that rarity – a film set among a privileged elite that does not grate but inspires.

I’m glad I’m keeping people entertained.

There’s a fine moment in the film when I say something incomprehensible, and the camera cuts away to a shot of Chris K rolling his eyes. He can’t have been rolling his eyes at that particular comment, as there was only one camera in the room, but it’s nicely done.

[Thanks to dsquared in comments below for the tip-off.]

Robert Altman, RIP

He’s got a tapedeck in his tractor
And he listens to the local news
He finds out where the bass are bitin’
While he’s plowin’ to the country blues.
He was a cowboy and he knew I loved him well,
A cowboy’s secrets you never tell –
No, there’s nothin’ like the loving
Of a hard-drivin’ cowboy man.

He’s got a tapedeck in his tractor
While he’s plowing up his daddy’s land;
He’s got more horse sense
Than I ever seen in any man.
He was a cowboy and he knew I loved him well,
A cowboy’s secrets you never tell,
No, there’s nothin’ like the lovin’
Of a hard-drivin’ cowboy man

On Saturday nights we go dancin’ in town,
And all the boys’ll order up another round;
In the summertime,
We look forward to the rodeo.
On Saturday nights we go to town,
And all the boys’ll order up another round;
When he rides saddle bronc
I wait to hear that whistle blow.

He’s got a tapedeck in his tractor,
I can hear him when he’s comin’ home.
Then he holds me in the rocking chair
And sings me the love song.
He was a cowboy and he knew I loved him well
A cowboy’s secrets you never tell
No, there’s nothin’ like the lovin’
Of a hard-drivin’ cowboy man

No, there’s nothin’ like the muscles
Of a hard-drivin’ cowboy man.

Uzbekistan for all your Potassium & Patriotic Song Needs!

Spotted at the IMDb Reviews of Borat section:

Cheap Kazakhstan propaganda! Borats claim that Kazakhstan produces the best potassium in the world is totally unsubstantiated. It is well known in the countries of the former Soviet Union that it is Uzbekistan that produces the highest quality potassium not Kazakhstan! His claim that all other countries in the world are ran by little girls is also easily dismissed. Many former Soviet Union countries are run by grown men! Although the U.K was once run by fire breathing dragon woman Margaret Thatcher you could never call her a girl! Borat is the possessor of a terrible singing voice. How can he sing great patriotic songs with a voice like that?

LONG LIVE UZBECKISTAN! Uzbekistan for all your potassium & patriotic song needs.

[via Michael]

The Virtual Stoa Continues To Go To The Cinema So You Don’t Have To

The Departed: Jolly. Much better than the deeply crappy Gangs of New York.
The Wind That Shakes the Barley: Quite enjoyed it; made me want to see Michael Collins.
Borat: The reviews describe the good jokes pretty well, so you don’t actually have to go and see this.
La Tourneuse de pages: very well acted; great fun.

I suppose I’m really just marking time, while waiting for Casino Royale to open.

The Virtual Stoa Goes To The Cinema So You Don’t Have To

The Queen: Alright, but not as good as everyone told me it would be.
Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait: Pretty good. Jolly interesting.
Heading South: Good. Quite a bit better than anticipated, anyway.
The History Boys: Not very good at all.

The best thing about going to The History Boys, in fact, was the 1949 Public Information short that preceded it, Handkerchief Drill. Lots more about that kind of thing (though not about Handkerchief Drill, unfortunately) over here.

I think that deals with contemporary cinema.

J. Arthur Rank, Not An Easy Name For Me To Pronounce

Click over here for the British Film Institute’s Jonathan Ross-narrated interactive interwebnet feature thingy on the history of the Ealing Studios. This may have something to do with what my brother Michael has been working on recently, in the increasingly lengthy gaps between blogposts. I’m not quite sure.