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. A big thank-you goes out
to Mark for responding to our request - his response arrived a mere 45 minutes after we
pushed the Send button.
From: Mark Rance
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.
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
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 [Nostalghia.com]
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.