Mark Rance on Andrei Rublov: The Criterion Edition

Mark Rance worked for Criterion during the early to mid nineties. He helped pioneer the concept of supplemental footage for special edition laserdisk releases, a concept we now take for granted with the DVD medium. During his time at Criterion, he was responsible for laserdisk titles such a Silence of the Lambs and Andrei Rublov. Mark now runs his own DVD Production company, Three Legged Cat Productions. We asked Mark to briefly tell us about his role in the production of the Criterion Edition of Andrei Rublov back in the mid 1990s. The letter has been slightly edited for clarity.

From: Mark Rance
Date: 13 Aug 2002

Hi Trond:

Criterion acquired from  Martin Scorsese a  print he bought in  Russia
of the  Director's  Cut of Andrei  Rublov. I  confirmed though several
film  experts  that,  yes  this  was  the  version  as  Tarkovsky  had
planned.   My  three  main  tasks  at Criterion  were:  (i) Creating a
commentary that would help contextualize the film.  However,  the  new
head  of  Criterion, Peter Becker, did not want this to run the entire
length of the film; it is spotted throughout the film. (ii) The jacket
design for the laserdisk as well as the menus (which have carried over
somewhat to the DVD).  This involved creating timelines and maps in an
overlay  that  would  give  viewers a visual representation of Russian
history, Tarkovsky's life, and point to where in the  film  there  was
commentary.  (iii) My  proudest  achievement, however, was in tricking
Criterion into subtitling the film properly.  I was almost  fired  for
this when  the  bill  came in,  but  even  the best versions available 
then were missing by my count close to 30-40% of the dialog. The  film
is  therefore  now much more legible to English speaking viewers;  the
philosophical and narrative concerns are more dense,... more intricate.

I  originally spearheaded Criterion release of Nostalghia, but I think  
that due to the subtitle fiasco I was not given the job.  The guy they
sent to Italy to do the telecine had never even seen the film, and the 
end result was not the best.

Then I tried for years to get Criterion to buy Mirror but to no avail.
Andrei Rublov and Mirror are my personal favorites, even though I like
everything Tarkovsky did.


Mark Rance
Three Legged Cat Productions
Los Angeles, CA 90024

Peter Becker mentions Andrei Rublov

Peter Becker interviewed by Joshua Klein in the Chicago Tribune, November 11, 2003:

[...] "It used to be that we had to scale our work very, very carefully, since there were barely enough laserdisc players to break even after just making a decent master," says Criterion president Peter Becker. "We were certainly early, aggressive pioneers in the development of the special features that have become the standard bells and whistles on a lot of DVDs, but in those days, we could afford to do, say, an elaborate edition of Silence of the Lambs, but our edition of La Strada really had nothing on it. In fact, if you go back and look at our laserdiscs of the great international classics, many of them have little on them at all in terms of special features."

"I also go back and look at what we sold of certain releases," he added. "Andrei Rublyov is a very important film, arguably Tarkovsky's masterpiece, and I think we sold maybe 660 copies of that on laserdisc. When you have to break even on 660 copies, let alone make a profit, it tells you why the list price on something like that had to be $99." [...]

Other interviews with Mark Rance

Postscriptum: Note that in the first of these interviews, Mark states that he is involved with the production of the Miramax Kieslowski Three Colors DVD project. This no longer holds true — see below note.

Subject: Re: Kieslowski
From: Mark Rance     [TLC Productions]
To:   Trond Trondsen []
Date: Thu, 12 Jul 2001 12:52:07 -0700

I am sorry to say that we got into a huge fight with Miramax and had to
leave the THREE COLORS project. I can hope they retain the plan and scope of
the treatment we were getting ready for the films on DVD. Perhaps we will
have the opportunity to return to the titles in another region.


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