The Master of puppets.
Birthe Jrgensen | Odense, Denmark | 05/21/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"What Harryhausen and Pal are to America, Trnka is to Eastern European stop-motion animation; the Master. This collection includes some of his best work, and these short films now shine like never before on this new gorgeous DVD release. -This almost hypnotic new video format (DVD) seem to have a very positive effect on people in the industry, bringing them to seek the release of many a lost or forgotten treasure. I think the future looks golden, indeed. There's something truly unique about the high art of stop-motion, and personally I feel the older it is, strangely enough the better it is somehow. Also adding to the fun in this case, is hearing the wonderfully voiced Boris Karloff narrate one. Let's hope more Trnka stuff (and puppet trickery in general) is on the way; he and other Czech animators, like Karel Zeman, deserves it."
AMH | Seattle, WA | 11/18/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The Emperor's Nightingale is feature-length (67 minutes). There are also five shorts plus a brief documentry on Trnka. I'm not familiar with Andersen's original, but Trnka's treatment of The Emperor's Nightingale makes it perfect for his medium. First of all, it is a story within a story: a live-action unhappy boy dreams the puppet-animated fairy tale. Then, the dream itself revolves around a real singing nightingale and a mechanical singing nightingale. Having this mixture of live action and puppet animation makes the experience more complex and interesting than reading the story in a children's book. Plus, nowadays, with simulated on-line experience competing with "real" get-out-of-doors experience, the story is even more complex. The Emperor of the title is the boy Emperor of China, and this leads to a nice Czech-filtered Oriental flavor to the art design. The shorts are a mixed bag. Story Of The Bass Cello (1949), from a Chekhov piece, and The Song Of The Prairie (1949), a spoof of Hollywood westerns, have humorous moments but felt too much like 1950s TV children shows. The Merry Circus (1951) is unique: the animation is done entirely with paper cutouts. The colors are very beautiful and reminded me of vintage carnival posters come to life. Then there's A Drop Too Much (1954), which is like the Citizen Kane of animation because of the virtuoso display of narrative technique. There is a stunning sequence of a drunk motorcyclist racing everything on the road during a rainy night. The last short, The Hand (1965), is best enjoyed as a Beckett-like short play, rather than a political allegory."
Great movie memory from childhood...
chimera68 | St. Augustine, FL USA | 12/01/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This is a review for The Emperor and the Nightingale DVD, mine is a slightly different one. The cover art is the same, but mine contains only the movie plus one short film "John Henry and the Inky Poo" (which I believe is a George Pal short, correct me if I'm wrong...) The film, narrated creepily enough by Boris Karloff, has been color-enhanced and sound-restored, according to the info on the box. I recall seeing this movie on TV sometime in the early 70's, probably at Christmas time. It is a great story, very sad in places, but with a good message for children even today, although the extremely old-fashioned look of the film may not hold up to some young kid's attention spans today. I would categorize it as more for people my age who have seen it many years ago and wish to have a lovely nostalgia trip by watching it. Buy it and have tissues handy, it's a weepie! I give it 4 out of 5 stars >>only because my DVD doesn't have all the goodies listed such as the other cartoon short subjects and the documentary material. Direct all comments to; BrideOfCyrano@aol.com"
wiredweird | Earth, or somewhere nearby | 03/12/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"If ever a man was born to his trade and art, it was Trnka. He grew up helping his grandmother make dolls and his mother with her work as a seamstress. By the time started making his movies, in his 30s, he had utter fluency in all of the manual skill needed for success. For new success, that is, because his career as an artist was already well established by then.
This DVD splits almost evenly into a feature length piece and six shorts. The former, "The Emperor's Nightingale," is a wonderful adaptation of a fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen. It touches on many things, including the monotony of mechanical perfection compared to the unpredictable beauty of the organic world. Trnka objected to the Soviet regime that controlled the Czech people during most of his adult life. That was the hand that fed him, though, as well as the hand that could crush him. If there's a subtext of rebellion by a living society against a rigid, mechanical system of control, it's written in very small print.
The shorts varied widely in holding my attention. The cartoon adaptation of Chekov's "The Bass Cello" is warm and funny, with a delightful chill in it for anyone who's had a no-pants dream filled with frustration and embarassment. "A Drop Too Much" could possibly have been a public service feature, about a 15 minute sermon on the evils of drinking and driving. It comes across with the complexity and moral tone of one of those "Davey and Goliath" cartoons I never much liked as a kid. "The Merry Circus" is interesting for an innovative animation technique, one with many strengths and weakness relative to normal model making, and "The Song of the Prarie" is a silly satire of the 1950s Western movies - already pretty silly in themselves.
Only "The Hand" really stands out in that set. It's a modern fairy tale about artistic and personal freedom in the face of massive, controlling social power. Small wonder that this piece won awards abroad and suppression in his home country.
The style is a bit dated, and scripting tends towards a meditative pace. There's not a lot here for the ADHD generation, unless they're truly dedicated fans of animation. For us in the middle ground, there's a lot to enjoy, but the world has other things to enjoy in it, too.