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The story of the love affair of Mikolas and Marketa, doomed because they belong to rival clans at war.
For more about Marketa Lazarová and the Marketa Lazarová Blu-ray release, see Marketa Lazarová Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on June 19, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 5.0 out of 5.
Director: Frantisek Vlácil
Writer: Frantisek Vlácil
Starring: Magda Vásáryová, Josef Kemr, Nada Hejna, Ivan Palúch, Karel Vasicek, Alena Pavlíková
» See full cast & crew
Marketa Lazarová Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, June 19, 2013
Frantisek Vlacil's "Marketa Lazarova" (1967) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion. The supplemental features on the disc include an original trailer for the film; the documentary film "In the Web of Time"; new video interview with film historian Peter Hames; new video interview with journalist and film critic Antonin Liehm; new program featuring interviews with actors Magda Vasaryova, Ivan Paluch, and Vlastimil Harapes; new video interview with costume designer Theodor Pistek; collection of storyboards drawn by director Frantisek Vlacil; and an interview with restoration expert Ivo Marak. The release also arrives with a 40-page illustrated booklet featuring Tom Gunning's essay "Cinema of the Wolf: The Mystery of Marketa Lazarova"; Alex Zucker's essay "Vladislav Vancura and his Novel"; and a reprinted interview with director Frantisek Vlacil conducted in the Spring of 1969 by journalist and film critic Antonin Liehm at the Cannes Film Festival. In Czech, with optional English subtitles for the main feature. Region-A "locked".
Franticsek Vlacil's Marketa Lazarova, voted the best Czech film ever made, is not easy to deconstruct. It is a notably atmospheric film divided into two sections, Straba The Werewolf and The Holy Lamb, each broken into multiple episodes in which different stories frequently overlap. Various flashbacks also highlight events that are not always related.
Loosely based the novel by writer Vladislav Vancura -- in a video interview included on this release, film historian Pater Hames rightfully points out that unlike the novel the film is set in the 13th century and that only its visual style pays homage to Vancura's writings -- the film chronicles the ongoing confrontations between two clans after the rape of Marketa Lazarova (Magda Vasaryova), a young and beautiful girl whose father is the fearless leader of one of the clans. The focus of attention, however, is not so much on specific events, but on the spirit of the time in which they take place.
Each episode is preceded by a short text description (Czech intertitles are used) clarifying the upcoming events. Quite often, however, different flashbacks abruptly split the episodes. Long dream sequences also frequently enter the narrative. The result is a rather strange mosaic of beautiful images that could be quite confusing, at times even frustrating.
The film's sound design is also very unusual. Vlacil apparently intended Marketa Lazarova to be experienced as an opera which is why the sound in the film has such an important role. For example, in some episodes there are long echo effects that are replaced by beautiful choral singing and then different nature sounds. Some of the changes coincide with the end of a flashback or a dream sequence, but others are essentially intended to prevent the viewer from concentrating on the events taking place on the screen. (Again, the goal of the film is to recreate a certain atmosphere and capture the spirit of a very specific time).
This very unusual juxtaposition of images and sounds is the key reason why Marketa Lazarova is often described as an avant-garde period film. What separates Marketa Lazarova from other similar but not as effective experimental films is the sense of authenticity that is maintained in it. The entire film has the rawness and grittiness many documentary features have. The effect really is quite unusual – the time and the places where the clans clash are unfamiliar but feel very, very real.
There isn't a single scene where it looks like the actors are acting. They just happen to be there while the camera is observing them. What is truly impressive, however, is how the various wild animals are filmed. There is one sequence where a pack of wolves approach a camp and then suddenly stop as if to decide what to do next. Then one of the wolves attacks a man. Everything happens with such incredible intensity that one wonders how the entire sequence was filmed.
Marketa Lazarova was lensed by cinematographer Bedrich Batka (Jiri Weiss' Ninety Degrees in the Shade). The film's music score was composed by the prolific Czech composer Zdenek Liska (Jan Kadar and Elmar Klos' The Shop On Main Street, Karel Zeman's The Fabulous Baron Munchhausen).
Marketa Lazarová Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Frantisek Vlacil's Marketa Lazarova arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion.
The following text appears inside the booklet provided with this Blu-ray release:
"This digital master was produced from a 4K restoration undertaken by Nadace CEZ, Film Servis Karlovy Vary, the Czech Ministry of Culture, and the National Film Archive and performed by Universal Production Partners and Soundsquare Studios. For the restoration, a scan was created in 4K resolution on a Northlight II film scanner from the original camera negative and a fine-grain positive. The sound was restored from a new positive print made from the original sound negative.
Technical director: Ivo Marak/Universal Production Partners, Prague.
Restoration supervisor: Jiri Cvancara/Universal Production Partners, Prague.
Scanning technician: Jan Zahradnicek/Universal Production Partners, Prague.
Colorist: Pavel Marko/Universal Production Partners, Prague.
Sound restoration: Pavel Rejholec/Soundsquare Studios, Prague."
The presentation of this classic Czech film is enormously impressive. The difference between this new Blu-ray release and Second Run's old R2 DVD release of the film really is like night and day. Detail and especially image depth are quite extraordinary. Close-ups and the larger panoramic shots boast superb contrast without ever looking artificially boosted. There are no traces of problematic degraining corrections - the ultra-fine and evenly resolved grain 4K scans deliver is always easy to spot. Also, there are no problematic sharpening corrections. It is very easy to tell that numerous debris, damage marks and cuts have been carefully removed because the film also looks notably healthy. Finally, there are no serious stability issues to report in this review. All in all, I think that anyone who has seen the R2 DVD release of Marketa Lazarova will be enormously pleased with the film's transition to Blu-ray. It looks stunning. (Note: This is a Region-A "locked' Blu-ray release. Therefore, you must have a native Region-A or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
Marketa Lazarová Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There is only one standard audio track on this Blu-ray release: Czech LPCM 1.0. For the record, Criterion have provided optional English subtitles for the main feature.
It is also very easy to tell that serious work was done on the audio as well. Depth and clarity are very impressive. On the R2 DVD the singing sounds thin and quite flat while on the Blu-ray it is well rounded and crisper. There is a much better range of nuanced dynamics as well. (If you have the DVD, compare the big battle scene at the end on the two releases). The dialog is exceptionally crisp, always stable, and easy to follow. The English translation is excellent.
Marketa Lazarová Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Marketa Lazarová Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
This outstanding Blu-ray release of Frantisek Vlacil's Marketa Lazarova, voted the best Czech film ever made, is a prime example why Criterion are the best in the business - no other label would have treated this important European film with so much care and attention. Restored in 4K, Marketa Lazarova looks simply astonishing in high-definition. If you already have the Czech Blu-ray release, I encourage you to also purchase the Criterion release as it comes with an excellent selection of very informative exclusive supplemental features. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
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Marketa Lazarová Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Criterion Announces June Titles - March 18, 2013
The Criterion Collection has announced five titles for Blu-ray release in June. On June 11, the studio will release Ingmar Bergman's Wild Strawberries (1957). On June 18th, it will release William Cameron Menzies' Things to Come (1936), František Vlácil's Marketa ...
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