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World Premiere of The Flying Machine at Toronto Film Festival

August 17, 2011 2 comments

As announced recently on Polish Film Institute website, The Flying Machine (2011) is going to be premiered at 36th Toronto International Film Festival that takes place next month. 

The Flying Machine is an interesting project undertaken by producers and creators of an Oscar winner, Peter and the Wolf by Suzie Templeton (2006). The film combines 3D stop-motion animation with live action (here they even got a star Heather Graham) and with Fryderyk Chopin music played by famous Chinese pianist, Lang Lang. Apart from Chopin himself, there is of course a huge Polish input in the production – from financial support from Polish Film Institute or Lodz Film Commission to my best liked Polish names, like Marek Skrobecki or Krzysztof Ptak (cinematography).

I am under impression that to find a full list of credits  you would have to check quite a few sources and actually compile it yourself. Or maybe one day Sight and Sound will publish it in full length – that’s a very good practice of the magazine! So, to avoid creating additional confusion I will just refer you to the website of the film’s British producer, Breakthru Films. It is said that The Flying Machine will reach Polish cinemas on 21st October 2011. And I only hope that it will be possible to see it in other parts of the world, too – not only at festivals…

You know, there was once a piece of text published in FilmPRO 1/2010 (a Polish film industry related magazine), entitled Preludium by Marta Luchacz and Jarek Somborski. Even though it got printed almost 1.5 year ago when The Flying Machine production was actually at the stage of preproduction I guess, I think it provides quite a nice insight into the film concept and the way the works were planned. And that’s exactly why I would like to refer to it a bit and give you some shadowy (sic!) facts. (Sure, if you ever happen to find anything more up-to-date, do drop me a line as I’ll be happy to learn about it myself.)

Anyway, The Flying Machine is supposed to be the first stop-motion puppet animation in Poland made with the use of stereoscopic technique (and, so far, I have not heard of any similar project, so my assumption is The Flying Machine still holds the title of a pioneer on Polish scene). However, the film will be screened in both: traditional and 3D cinemas. There were supposed to be two different scales for puppets created for the purpose of the film – a scale of 1:4.5 for 30-40cm puppets and 1:9 for those of 15-20cm. The film was to combine 50% of animation with the remaining 50% of live action. All that was to be filmed in a specially built studio with over 20 sets prepared by Marek Skrobecki.

In the initial phase of works on the film the crew made a lot of tests, first of all, based on reference material used by creators of Coraline (2006), in order to work out the best way of creating the stereoscopic effect. However, due to completely unsatisfying results and disparity in the depth of the picture in different frames, the crew decided to reject it and set up their own rules. The challenge seemed to be even bigger when you realise that what you actually get in the film is a mix of stop-motion animation, live action (sure, I already mentioned these) but also computer animation (was to be added in the postproduction process) along with both postproduction and compositing to have been done in stereo alike (if I’m making myself clear at all 😉 ).

I am not going to get into more technical details here as I am not that technical person myself nor it’s a post on meanders of stereoscopy. It’s definitely worth reading on that fascinating subject if you are not a specialist in the field and, to be honest, the mentioned issue of FilmPRO magazine gave me a good insight into the technical details as well as the historic aspects. For the purpose of this post, though, enough to say that stereoscopy is fascinating and if you’d like to learn more, this time from a critic’s point of view, check a post by Jasper Sharp on his blog: Cinematism, Realism, and Spectacle part 6: Changing our Focus – StreetDance 3D.

In the meantime, let’s watch The Flying Machine space and fingers crossed the final effect is worth the noise 😉

Below, as usual, is a bit of a moving picture…

Let’s Sand Animate on a Cloudy Friday: Aleksandra Korejwo

May 27, 2011 Leave a comment

Aleksandra Korejwo is  a Polish animator who is well known for her sand animations. Beautiful, gentle, charismatic (I would say) to some point. The beauty of sand technique in animation lies in its elusiveness,  fragility and the fact that if you don’t film it, it will disappear like a sand castle on a beach covered with a bigger wave. 

Although Korejwo is known for her sand technique, she actually uses… coloured salt 🙂 Let’s have a look at two pieces today and I do hope you’ll enjoy them.

Good treat for any day: Castle of Cagliostro by Hayao Miyazaki (1979)

May 26, 2011 1 comment

I think some two days back or so, Film4 in the UK offered its viewers a great treat. I, personally, love I guess every work by Miyazaki so I was really happy when I found Castle of Cagliostro on the schedule.

To be honest I don’t normally watch that much TV and even if I start watching during the day, I usually end up with doing something else that is just more important. What happened this time? Well, halfway I had to switch to CBeebies as Waybaloo at 6pm occurs to be one of the everyday evening priorities… BUT! May the inventors of DVD and other home cinema systems stay blessed and happily live their lives in this or any other world (it seems my knowledge of them is very limited, to say the least) forever and ever.

A couple of years ago I met that wonderful lady, an anime expert who I was supposed to work with on a part of certain film festival programme. For many reasons the whole event did not work out which was a great shame but in fact it was she who had opened my eyes to Castle of Cagliostro. And I dare to say I am grateful.

OK, let’s talk about the film now. A flamboyant, international thief, Lupin III and his gang come to the smallest European country of Caliogstro, where he rescues a beautiful princess Clarice from a forced marriage to a count of Cagliostro and solves a mystery of a hidden treasure. Even though the princess is not that beautiful in her old-fashioned hair style… Well, that’s not really the point but I just had to make it… It’s Miyazaki’s feature debut from 1979 when the animator was already 38 and was well known for his work for TV. Here, he got a chance to prove his talent having more screen time to work on, bigger budget and higher production values.

Castle of Cagliostro is funny, witty, romantic, slapstick and adventures. I think only the fact that it’s based on good old series about Lupin III can justify his getaway from the princess at the end of Miyazaki’s film. (Oops, have I just given away the ending??…) Practically, he broke her heart and she didn’t even notice because she’s going to wait for him anyway!… Hm, I think I am just being pragmatic but it may be a matter of age, you know. It always changes one’s perspective, doesn’t it?

Anyway, I always try to recommend here a good source of deeper info on subjects my posts are about. So today I am not going into more details either and simply refer you to a good book on Miyazaki’s films if you are really interested. Hayao Miyazaki: Master of Japanese Animation: Films, Themes, Artistry by Helen McCarthy gives an overview, genesis and general analysis of 7 films from the animator plus discusses his career as well as the system of production Miyazaki works in. The book is from 2003, so the latest productions are not mentioned there. However, still worth checking for the master’s background 🙂

And below, we have the Castle of Cagliostro trailer. Enjoy!

Polish Film Festival Wisla in Moscow, Russia (15th April – 5th May 2011)

May 25, 2011 2 comments

The festival is over but I think it’s still worth mentioning. I am selective though as I am not going to write here about anything else than animated film. This year the event organisers dedicated a separate part of its programme to Polish animation with a special contribution from Se-Ma-For studio which screened some films but also gave a stop motion master class.

As a matter of fact, I think Se-Ma-For has been doing a pretty good job recently, at least PR-wise. They have been working hard to make sure everybody knows what the studio is about, what its history was, its achievements, and what films they currently work on. In the past it was widely known in Poland that the studio had had financial problems, and it changed its status from state organisation to private. Now it seems Se-Ma-For promotes their films everywhere – not only in Poland as they appear at festivals in Europe, America, Africa, now Russia. They have retrospective programmes but also their new productions get selected for competitions and get mentioned among winners. So all in all it looks great in the media, animated film is in the scope, which means Poland gets in the scope too. So, well done Se-Ma-For!

Yes, but getting back to the Moscow festival programme… The films shown in Moscow included a few titles from Marek Skrobecki but also Maska by Timothy Quay and Stephen Quay, Two Steps Behind… (Dwa kroki za…, 2010) by Paulina Majda and The Good, the Beauty and the Truth (Dobro, piekno, prawda, 2010) by Balbina Bruszewska (pretty interesting and very active animator who will get her own post here veeeery soooooon).

For more information (available in Polish and Russian), go first of all to the festival website or at least to a piece of news on Polish Television website.

Danny Boy by Marek Skrobecki (2010)

May 20, 2011 5 comments

Today, let’s say, it is going to be a bit reflective day. Plus a bit of puppet mastery with a bit of post-production tricks. A bit of puppet animation history. And a bit of Fryderyk Chopin lookalike  in Danny Boy himself. 

Danny Boy is a film by Marek Skrobecki who wrote the script as well as directed it. It’s a story about human imperfection which can actually be called losing one’s head. You can lose presence of mind or good judgement through your crazy, insane emotions, etc. In this story almost everybody literally has lost their head. With one exception: Danny Boy, who, being a misfit, feels strongly alienated from the headless society. The film deals with the problem of loneliness of an individual and poses a question if one should level down standards in the name of social adjustment.

It has been selected for Academy Awards© 2011 in Best Animated Short category, so we’ll see what happens next. Just as a reminder (or to those who don’t know), Marek Skrobecki collaborates with a Polish renowned studio, Se-Ma-For, that appears as one of Danny Boy‘s producers alike. It’s also Se-Ma-For studio that was one of co-producers of an Oscar winner,  Peter and the Wolf by Suzie Templeton (2006).

Among Skrobecki’s films are such amazing pieces, like: D.I.M. (1992) or Ichtys (2005).

To sum it up shortly, let’s have a look at the making of Danny Boy from Sapristi Studio, the film’s post-production company.

Please, Call Back Later by Yulia Ruditskaya (2010)

May 18, 2011 2 comments

I can say straight away that I don’t like this week’s Wednesday. I didn’t like it even when I was still sleeping, hoping it would change after I’d awake. Miserable Bridget Jones eating ice cream under her duvet – that’s one of very few scenes I actually remember from the movie (not sure part 1 or 2). Do I really really identify with that creature and parody of femininity? I don’t even feel like eating ice cream nor staying late in bed, to be honest. I’d rather, out of that misery, go out and do something constructive as I’m not really the Bridget type…

And here comes the rescue team: the latest work from Yulia Ruditskaya and her delightful character who tells me exactly what to do. And forget the mobile ringing somewhere in the background…

For more Yulia’s films, visit her channel at Vimeo.

Please, Call Back Later from Yulia Ruditskaya on Vimeo.

Polish Cinema Now! Focus on Contemporary Polish Cinema

May 17, 2011 1 comment

I think it’s a very important book on English market, especially when you realise there’s so little on the subject. The funny thing is that when Poland was behind the iron curtain (up to 1989) and when state censorship tried to manipulate almost every aspect of people’s lives, including films, many of the productions were actually known worldwide. Everybody knew (and still does) names like Kieslowski or Wajda probably as much as the Polish School of Animation (the term used in the 60s of the last century). All that was good and valuable, inspirational and put high on intellectual heights. And I think it still plays an important role in Polish culture in general, even though it’s just (as some might say) a part of the past. 

However, and I do mean it, I may feel slightly fed up with that constant re-discovering Poland, its culture and artefacts in the context of Soviet domination as if there was nothing more on offer (which is, by the way, completely untrue). And that’s exactly why Polish Cinema Now! is so important – it creates a bridge between the past and the present. It identifies links between history and the present day while pointing out influences, sources but also opposites and changes that occurred as a consequence of replacing the socialist regime with the democratic one. And, above all, it shows that life goes on and, on a daily basis, the past does not have to be in the centre of attention.

Polish Cinema Now! is edited by Mateusz Werner, a Polish film critic and writer and contains of several essays from both Polish and English authors. Only one chapter is dedicated to animation but that’s, to be honest, perfectly fine. It’s informative (gives a number of names, titles and studios), yet well written and keeps you focused long enough to get you to the end in one go.

The book is also accompanied by 2 DVDs which are a selection of short films, among them – several animations: Franz Kafka (1991) by Piotr Dumala; DIM. (1992) by Marek Skrobecki; Hairdresser (Fryzjer, 1996) by Robert Sowa; Tuning the Instruments (Strojenie instrumentow, 2000) by Jerzy Kucia; and The Cathedral (Katedra, 2002) by Tomasz Baginski. The last one was nominated for the Academy Award for Animated Short Film in 2002. And even though it’s not really one of my favourites, this one I show you today:




***An interesting and quite informative review was published online in February this year: Polish Cinema Now! review. Enjoy!

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