In its young but event­ful life, Artsploitation Films has estab­lished itself as a DVD label with a love for walk­ing on the wild side of inter­na­tion­al art/experimental film­mak­ing; a place that is carv­ing out its own unique niche between cult movies and the art­house.  Any fan of either afore­men­tioned style of film expects for their cho­sen fare to be treat­ed respect­ful­ly on disc and Artsploitation lives up to that expec­ta­tion. A good sam­pling of their approach can be seen on their recent release of Animals, which com­bi­nes a good trans­fer with plen­ti­ful sup­ple­ments that get into this unique film’s com­plex lay­ers.

Things start well with a nice anamor­phic trans­fer of the film. Eduard Grau’s cin­e­matog­ra­phy uti­lizes a mut­ed col­or scheme and a lot of shad­owy nat­u­ral light­ing but the image qual­i­ty lives up to the­se chal­lenges, giv­ing the film a rich and cin­e­mat­ic look.  A 5.1 stereo sound­track is includ­ed and it offers a solid blend of dia­logue, music and effects.  The film mix­es Catalan and English and a sub­ti­tle track is pro­vid­ed to cap­ture the for­eign lan­guage mate­ri­al for non-English speak­ers.  In a nice touch, an English sub­ti­tle track is also pro­vid­ed for the hard of hear­ing that offers sub­ti­tles for every­thing.

Animals-dvdArtsploitation sup­ports this pre­sen­ta­tion with an array of extras.  The first is a com­men­tary track with writer/director Marcal Fores, mod­er­at­ed by film jour­nal­ist Travis Crawford.  Given the film’s ambigu­ous approach, this track is a help for those who seek to inter­pret it.  Crawford con­ducts the track like a fea­ture-length inter­view , get­ting Fores to dis­cuss his use of music, where the film was shot and the how the effects for the film’s ted­dy bear char­ac­ter were achieved.

There are also more aes­thet­ic-mind­ed ques­tions from Crawford that get inter­est­ing answers from Fores: the direc­tor freely dis­cuss­es what he feels the film has to say about child­hood, the painful process of matur­ing to adult­hood and the role devel­op­ing one’s sex­u­al­i­ty plays in this process.  The track is a solid lis­ten through­out and those intrigued by the film will be very inter­est­ed to com­pare the director’s inter­pre­ta­tion of the film with their own.

The disc also includes “The Bear Truth,” a short pro­duced to cel­e­brate the film’s appear­ance at an Irish LGBT film fes­ti­val.  It offers a series of gay and trans­gen­der peo­ple talk­ing about the ted­dy bears they’ve own and how they’ve impact­ed their lives.  In a nice touch, a pup­peteer “ani­mates” the bears being dis­cussed as the par­tic­i­pants talk about them.  The results have a nice warmth and charm.

A par­tic­u­lar­ly nov­el inclu­sion is “Animals Short,” which is a film school exer­cise done by  Fores as a stu­dent that inspired Animals.  This vignette includes a lot of mate­ri­al that made it to the lat­er fea­ture film, includ­ing the rela­tion­ship between the boy and the bear, the impor­tance of music to the boy and the unique voice for the bear.

The best infor­ma­tion-to-run­ning-time ration comes from a mak­ing-of short about the film.  In under twen­ty min­utes, it cov­ers an impres­sive amount of ground: top­ics include the spe­cial effects, the cast’s inter­pre­ta­tion of their roles, talk of which sequences were the most chal­leng­ing to shoot and how the var­i­ous film­mak­ing tools were used to cre­ate the film’s dis­tinc­tive atmos­phere.  All the prin­ci­pal cast and crew are inter­viewed in the piece (Michael Freeman is par­tic­u­lar­ly wit­ty) and there’s some great behind-the-sce­nes footage includ­ed, espe­cial­ly the footage of how “Deerhoof” com­bined real pup­petry and com­posit­ing.

The disc’s extras are round­ed out by a the­atri­cal trail­er for Animals, a brisk piece that avoids sum­ma­riz­ing the plot in favor of sell­ing the cast and the mix­ture of mag­ic and dan­ger that exists in the film.  Four trail­ers for oth­er Artsploitation releas­es are includ­ed and the pack­age is com­plet­ed with the inclu­sion of full-col­or book­let of lin­er notes that offer an inter­view with Fores, con­duct­ed by Crawford.  It reads like a cap­sule ver­sion of mate­ri­al cov­ered in the com­men­tary track and thus makes a nice com­pan­ion piece to that track.

In short, Artsploitation’s release of Animals does well by this unusu­al film in both the tech­ni­cal and sup­ple­men­tal areas.  Any inter­est­ed in off­beat mod­ern cin­e­ma with an art­sy touch should check it out.

To read Schlockmania’s film review of Animals, click here.