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HARVIE KRUMPET

Metrodome Edition  [UK, Region 0, PAL]

Director:  Adam Elliot

Featuring the voices of:  Geoffrey Rush, Kamahl, John Flaus, Julie Forsyth

THE FILM

Harvie Krumpet tells the life story of a Harvek Milos Krumpetzki, a boy born in Poland in 1922. It's a bittersweet story, as a string of bad luck plagues the poor sod from childhood to retirement. Along the way there are some uplifting events, as Harvek moves to Australia - Anglicising his name from Harvek to Harvie in the process - finds true love and gains a family.

Harvie Krumpet is beautifully narrated by Geoffrey Rush, as if it were a story he was telling to a child at bedtime. The stop-frame plasticine animation inevitably recalls Aardman, but has a distinctive tone that sets it apart. Some of the story is a bit depressing, and there are adult elements dealing with sex and death that perhaps make it unsuitable for young children. At twenty-two minutes, it's pretty much the perfect length. It lacks the assured polish of the better Aardman productions, but is well up to the standards of that studio.

Harvie Krumpet won the 2003 Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film.

THE DISC

Despite claims to being "16:9 Anamorphic" on the sleeve, and what you might read in reviews elsewhere, the film itself is presented in non-anamorphic letterbox format. This is unfortunate, because anamorphic enhancement would undoubtedly have helped the presentation.

Much of the film has a distinctly drab look, which was entirely deliberate. The film looks just fine. There's a bit of grain, and some instability, but nothing that you wouldn't expect, and nothing that can't be excused. There's also a bit of flicker in some scenes, which is caused by on-set lighting variations. Occasionally there's a bit of negative or positive film dirt, which could have been tidied up by an hour or two with a Paintbox-type utility. Generally, though, the transfer looks fine, with decent contrast and detail.

The film has optional English subtitles, but there are no subtitles for the commentary, or the other bonus materials. The subtitles are not restricted to the picture area of the letterboxed image, which will disappoint viewers with 16:9 sets that need them.

The short running time of the feature and the bonus materials are easily accommodated on a DVD-5 format disc, leaving plenty of wasted space. The bit-rate for the main feature is 6.52Mb/s. A much higher bit-rate could easily have been employed, and still not filled the disc. Thankfully, there are no obvious encoding flaws.

There are numerous captions during the film, which are presented as they originally appeared in the film (there are no player-generated captions).

Unlike the Region 1 disc, the UK presentation of Harvie Krumpet has a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track. There are only a couple of moments that take full advantage of this, but when they do kick in, it's very effective.

THE EXTRAS

The film is supported by a commentary track by Adam Elliot, which is very informative, and often very entertaining (one morning the animators discovered that their set had been invaded by ants, who were eating the "snow", which was made from icing sugar). It concentrates on the minutiae of the production (what things were made out of, for example), and neglects the larger picture (why the film was made), but it's useful enough.

The disc also offers four other Adam Elliot short films: Human Behavioural Case Studies. Series  One (1996, 1m, erroneously identified on the menus and packaging as Human Behavioural Case Studies, Part One), Uncle (1996, 6m), Cousin (1998, Elliot's first commissioned film, 4m), and Brother (1998, 8m). The latter three form a semi-autobiographical trilogy, in similar vein to Harvie Krumpet, but more obviously grounded in reality. Human Behavioural... is traditional 2D animation: the others are stop-motion plasticine animations. These films, which show an animator honing his skills, are, unsurprisingly, in rougher shape than the main attraction, but are a terrific addition to the offering. Harvie Krumpet is an enormous step up in terms of production quality (particularly the sound, which is quite poor on the shorts). The short films include ideas and gags that would turn up later in Harvie Krumpet, and seeing them is very informative.

There's no indication on the menus, but Uncle, Cousin, and Brother are each accompanied by a commentary track by Elliot, which can be accessed via pressing your remote's AUDIO button.

The Storyboard Featurette (6m) shows some behind-the-scenes photo's, and a presentation of some sequences from the film alongside Adam's storyboards, which scroll along the bottom (a particularly effective presentation). This has narration by Elliot, who ends the presentation with some statistics about the production.

Character Model Shots are still-frame images of four of the characters in the film. You can use your remote control buttons to rotate the figures by ninety-degrees. Not as effective as a simple film of the models shot on a turntable might have been, but worth seeing.

There's an Easter Egg to be found on the Extras menu: if you move the cursor around, a cigarette appears in Harvie's mouth, and if you select that, audio of someone singing Danny Boy begins. I'm not sure what relevance this has - perhaps I wasn't paying enough attention.

Incidentally, Harvie Krumpet is the first disc I've played since buying my current Sony DVD deck (a couple of months ago) that takes advantage of the player's "screen saver" function. The disc loads a still image into the player's memory, so that when you stop the disc, you don't revert back to the player's own graphic screen. A nice touch!

SUMMARY

A charming animated story, more suited to fans of Angry Kid than Creature Comforts, Harvie Krumpet is worth the attention and accolades it has gathered. The DVD comes with a lot of supporting background material, forming a rounded portrait of a very talented animator. The non-anamorphic presentation, and the cautious bit-rate used, are both disappointments.

The UK disc has a key advantage over the R1 release, which does not have a 5.1 audio track. The UK disc appears to be very similar, however, to the R4 version. None of the versions currently available has an anamorphic transfer. There would appear to be no reason why the UK disc is not the one to get.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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