The mad geniuses at Deaf Crocodile continue their wonderful label curation with Visitors from the Arkana Galaxy an irresistibly charming bit of insanity. Newly restored and filled with special features on Blu-ray.
Visitors from the Arkana Galaxy is the kind of film that I loved as a kid and continue to love as an adult. A film so drunk on the possibility of cinema that it almost seems like the entire film was improvised. Using an “alien invasion” as a starting point the film from co-writer/director Dušan Vukotić happily obliterates genres, grinding them up into something wholly different and wonderful. A film that defies expectations as it does description.
Not just satisfied with telling the tale of sci-fi novelist Robert’s (Žarko Potočnjak) creations coming to life wreaking havoc on not only him but his long-suffering girlfriend Biba (Ksenija Prohaska) and the sleepy coastal town they live in. Visitors from the Arkana Galaxy is also a romance, and a comedy, and an alien invasion movie, and a troubled child film, and a social satire. The film nimbly shifts its tone and focus with the accuracy of a high-wire performer with no safety net.
Much of the delight and enjoyment of the film is just how unexpectedly scene to scene the film plays out. Writers Vukotić and Miloš Macourek understand these shifts and the expectations of each of the genres the film makes its sandbox(es). The film works as almost a dream with its logic and its smooth but ever-evolving narrative.
The new scan of the film with restoration by Craig Rogers for Deaf Crocodile and Blu-ray authoring by David Mackenzie of Fidelity In Motion is a stellar example of what Deaf Crocodile does best.
They include the following;
- New commentary track by film historian Samm Deighan
- New essay by film historian and professor Jennifer Lynde Barker
- Short film: “Krava na mjesecu” (Cow On The Moon)
- Short film: “Piccolo”
- Short film: “1001 crtez” (1001 Drawings)
- Short film: “Surogat” (The Substitute)
- Short film: “Ars Gratia Artis”
The all-new commentary track by film historian Samm Deighan opens with a discussion of the alternate titles and the mashup of the various genres it uses. Some of the details include a detailed discussion of the plot and how its plays into specific types of comedies from Eastern Europe of the era; production being a co-production of Yugoslavia and Czech; a larger discussion of the work/filmography of director Dušan Vukotić – including his own personal history and how he eventually came to film via animation; the work of screenwriter Miloš Macourek – a larger discussion of his filmography and how they relate to Visitors from the Arkana Galaxy; the locations that the production used; the use of tourist and tourism as a major plot point in the film; some of the major differences between this alien invasion film from other big budget western films of similar genre; there is a larger conversation throughout about the various actors that appear in the film and the other films they appeared in, the work here, and their personal lives; and much more. Deighan has provided another essential informative commentary track for Deaf Crocodile. The historian gives us a track that isn’t just based on the film productions but the politics and history of the region and how they relate to the film. Anyone who is the least bit interested in context for this very delightfully strange and unique film.
“Krava na mjesecu”/Cow On The Moon (10:40) – director Dušan Vukotić 1959 short of a bully of a teenage boy getting his comeuppance when he decides to mess with the wrong scientifically minded young lady. There’s a breezy fun attitude, exemplified by its jazz-infused score, that makes this one a winner. No spoken dialog.
“Piccolo” (9:30) – another short from director Vukotić from 1959, this one about neighbors and friends that quickly turn enemies over a musical instrument. The short is as charming and visually astute as Vukotić other work made all the more impressive by the stylistic artistry on display that feels like it was the reference point for Fantasia 2000’s Rhapsody in Blue segment. No spoken dialog.
“1001 crtez” / 1001 Drawings (14:42) – this short from 1960 has director Vukotić mixing live action and animation, almost perfectly, in this adroit “how-to” draw animation. Framing the short with a “studio” tour the short does a marvelous job uniquely showing all of the artisans it takes to make an animated film. Note it is not just traditional cell animation but the animation in all its styles and forms that are used to produce this short. In Croatian with English subtitles.
“Surogat” / The Substitute (9:48) – this 1961 short is about a day at the beach where everything both good and bad is inflatable including our main character’s ego. The short has the distinct pleasure of being Vukotic’s lone Oscar-winning short. A stunning bit of bravado with the hook too good to give up here. The short has the charm of a Jacques Tati film, specifically the way that Playtime is able to execute the daring sort of comedic set pieces. No spoken dialog.
“Ars Gratia Artis” (8:55) – this 1969 Vukotic short is a sort of homage to Un Chien Andalou the infamous short film directed by Luis Buñuel. Here rather than sight and eyes it’s the mouth and eating. A hybrid of animation and live-action shows our subjects eating all manner of dangerous items like razors, glass, and much more. No spoken dialog.
The Final Thought
Visitors from the Arkana Galaxy (and the accompanying shorts from Vukotić included on the disc) is a film you won’t soon forget. Invest and you’ll be rewarded with a unique sci-fi comedy that Douglas Adams would have loved and some truly daring and exciting animated shorts. Highest Recommendations!