Blu-ray Cover

Distributor: Arrow Academy

Release Date: March 28, 2017

Region: Region Free

Length: 01:24:04

Video: 1080P

Main Audio: 2.0 English Linear PCM Audio

Subtitles: English SDH

Ratio: 2.35:1

Notes: This release includes a DVD edition of the film.

Title

The Creeping Garden is an award-winning feature-length creative documentary exploring the extraordinary world of the plasmodial slime mould as revealed through the eyes of the fringe scientists, mycologists and artists who work with them. Long overlooked by biologists, in recent years this curious organism has become the focus of much research in such areas as biological-inspired design, emergence theory, unconventional computing and robot engineering, much of which borders on the world of science fiction. The film transports us from the laboratory into its natural habitat, depicting these otherworldly lifeforms using startling time-lapse macro-cinematography to reveal hidden facets of the world around us. The film was co-directed by the Tim Grabham and Jasper Sharp and features an original soundtrack composed by Jim O’Rourke (Sonic Youth, Grizzly Man) that recalls a number of science fiction films. The result is a surprisingly engaging experience considering the somewhat esoteric subject matter, and one feels that The Creeping Garden could be an excellent teaching tool in classroom situations.

The Presentation:

4.5 of 5 Stars

Arrow Academy houses three discs in their usual clear Blu-ray case with a reversible sleeve that showcases artwork taken from the film’s original one-sheet and newly commissioned artwork. Interestingly—and unlike most Arrow titles—the default artwork is the one-sheet artwork. Happily, both choices are both attractive and appropriate for the subject matter. It is difficult to choose a preference.

Limited Edition.jpg

Arrow also includes an illustrated booklet featuring an exclusive essay written by Jasper Sharp (one of the film’s directors) entitled “Articulating the Organism: The Genesis of The Creeping Garden” and a ‘gallery of selected Myxomycetes Specimens in the collection of the South London Botanical Institute.’ The essay is somewhat enlightening and thoroughly engaging while the collection of photographs featuring the mold specimens is in keeping with the documentary’s subject.

[Note: The booklet is only included with the first pressing of this particular release.]

 The disc’s animated menu utilizes footage from the film and is easy to navigate. It is rare that this sort of documentary receives such an attractive release and Arrow should be commended for their efforts.

Picture Quality:

4 of 5 Stars

According to the included booklet, the disc’s HD master was supplied by the filmmakers and it looks quite good. This documentary features quite a few source elements and the various materials naturally vary somewhat in terms of quality. Aspects of the image such as detail and clarity naturally fluctuate a bit between sources. Some of the freshly shot footage has minor issues such as flicker, but color, detail, clarity, and other aspects of the image meet one’s expectations.

Sound Quality:

4 of 5 Stars

The included 2.0 English Linear PCM Audio transfer is equally solid. It probably won’t give your top-of-the-line speaker system much of a workout, but it more than serves the needs of the film. Dialogue is clear, ambience is well prioritized, and music has room to breathe. This seems to be a perfect reproduction of the original source elements.

Special Features:

4 of 5 Stars

Audio Commentary by Tim Grabham and Jasper Sharp

This is much better than the average commentary describing what one is watching on the screen. Tim Grabham and Jasper Sharp instead prefer to discuss the challenges they had to overcome while making the film, the reasoning behind some of their creative choices, and documentary filmmaking in general. Their enthusiasm for the subject matter is infectious. This is the crown jewel of this supplemental package.

Biocomputer Music – (06:06)

This plays more like scene deleted from the feature than a short that stands on its own. It concerns a bio-computer that allows a musical dialogue between scientist and slime mould.

Return to the Fungarium – (03:03)

Return to the Fungarium also seems to be footage shot for but not ultimately used in the final cut of the feature. Here we are shown other specimens held at the Kew Gardens fungarium.

Feeding Habits of Physarum – (02:19)

The third and final helping of unused footage finds Professor Adam Adamatzky explaining the feeding habits of slime molds.

Cinema iloobia Short Films:

Milk (2009) – (01:12)

Certain aspects of this so-called “short” by Tim Grabham reminds one stylistically of The Creeping Garden in its use of macrophotography and sound design. What we are actually seeing here is milk being dropped in a glass of oil.

Rotten (2012) – (01:16)

Tim Grabham’s Rotten also feels relatively similar to some of the photography found in The Creeping Garden. Here he uses an Eye-Clops bionic handheld microscope to record footage of a snail on VHS tape and then converts it to digital media before adding sound and tweaking the image.

Paramusical Ensemble (2016) – (09:43)

This short documentary features Eduardo Rech Miranda and follows a group of motor-impaired musicians as they test new electroencephalogram technology that allows the patient’s brainwave to conduct a small orchestra of musicians. It is an interesting addition to the set and the best of the included shorts.

Angela Mele’s Animated Slime Molds – (02:48)

The end credits utilize drawings by Angela Mele that were then digitally animated. These animations are offered here without the credits so that viewers can get the full effect.

US Theatrical Trailer – (00:35)

This trailer makes prominent use of a theatre marquee with the film’s title. It is actually rather well done and this approach works much better than one might think.

Gallery

This slideshow features the familiar one sheet and various other publicity items (which feature the same artwork), screenshots and stills from the film, and a gallery of various molds (much like those in the included booklet).

Soundtrack Album (Bonus CD) – (35:10)

One wishes that more Blu-ray packages included the film’s original soundtrack (or needle-drop soundtracks for that matter), but Jim O’Rourke’s music for The Creeping Garden isn’t exactly the sort of thing one wants to listen to on their drive home from work. Actually, it is difficult to think of a time when listening to the score might actually be appropriate. It might work quite well as atmosphere for a haunted house during the Halloween season. In any case, the disc is separated into two tracks which last between seventeen and eighteen minutes.

[Note: The CD is only included with the Limited Edition.]

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Final Words:

The Creeping Garden is surprisingly engaging for a documentary about such a recondite subject.

Review by: Devon Powell

 

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