Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Russian Animation

Russian Animation is as rich as an olive. It is soaked with supernatural beauty and unspoken tragedy. One look at it and BAM! Curiosity consumed me. The moment I got a taste of it from a youtube clip, I hungered for more. What is this world, unknown to so many? To the Western World? To the Russians themselves?

The first Russian Animation Clip that I saw was Hedge Hog in the Fog (image above), made in 1975 by Yuri Norstein (Also spelled Norshteyn), who is one of the most esteemed Russian animators of all time. The environment and characters he create are nothing like anything I've ever seen before---there's no ridiculous eye candy, but a stark beauty. He's been working on a film for twenty years or so (Production is slowed down by economic changes like the Perestroika by Gorbachev) called the Overcoat, which is based on a Russian novel of the same name by Nikolai Gogol. It's a pretty depressing story, about a man who worked his ass off to buy a coat, and then is so taunted by his coworkers that he dies from fever. Well, that is how the book goes, I wonder what the film will be like!

His apprentice, Aleksandr Petrov, has won an Oscar for his mouth-dropping Hemingway adaption of the Old Man and the Sea (image above) Get this---he FINGERPAINTS EVERYTHING with pastel oil paint on glass sheets set on multiple levels!!! GLASS!!! This guy's amazing! His painted frames look realistic, but in his films there are many scenes where we see the character's inner thoughts and feelings in a very dream-like sequence. This is why his work is considered a form of romantic realism. Aleksandr Petrov also came out with another film called My Love 2006 (image below) which is also based on the 1927 novel A Love Story by Ivan Shmelyov.

So that's my two cents... On we go with the objective information!!!

Yuri Norstein working on the Overcoat

Brief Timeline
Imperial Russia (1825-1917)
Aleksandr Shiryayev, the first Russian animator and an Imperial Russian Ballet dancer made puppet animated ballet films. They weren’t rediscovered until 1995.

1917 Post- October Revolution -Soviet Union slowly began to finance experimental studios to produce mainly propoganda films.
On the Skating Rink by Ivan Ivanov-Vano: Published Kadr za Kadrom (Frame by Frame)
1929 Post by Mikhail Tsekhanovsky : Innnovative Lenin-grad artist who succumbed to western “Éclair”- the Russian film term for rotoscoping. 1934 the Barrel Organ by Nikolay Khodatayev

1934 Socialist Realism- the depiction of proletariat struggle became the only approved art form in the Soviet Union. Studios emulated Walt disney’s cel animation technique, which quelched the previous innovative spirit.

1935 The Soviet Union’s first Full Length animated feature- The New Gulliver a combination of puppet animation and live action by Alexandr Ptushko: he was originally a mechanic engineer and trained architect who invented the adding machine that was used in the Soviet Union until the 1970s.

1936 Soyuzmultfilm-the most influential animation studio during Soviet Union rule.

1956- Khrushchev- started political and cultural renewal in the country.

1962 Fyodor Khitruk – One of the most influential animators who claimed to fame with his film History of a Crime . He deviated from the ‘60s socialist realism with a satirical style.

1963-Vadim Kurchevskiy &Nikolay Serebryakov- the Cloud in Love

1968-25th October, the First Day- Yuri Norstein and Arkadiy Tyurin
Anatoly Petrov- the Happy Merry-Go-Round. later more realistic Sci-fi Firing Range
1969- Nu Pugodi! (Just you Wait!) Famous Russian cartoon series
1971- the Battle of Kerzhenets- collaboration between Yuri Norstein and Ivan Ivanov-Vano
1973- the Fox and the Hare by Yuri Norstein
1974- the Heron and the Crane by Yuri Norstein
Yuri Norstein demonstrates technical mastery with paper puppet animation in Hedgehog in the Fog

1999- the Old Man and the Sea- Yuri's student Aleksandr Petrov wins an Oscar for his Hemingway adaption.
2006- My Love by Aleksandr Petrov, an adaption of a novel of the same name.

2008- Lavatory Love Story by Konstantin Bronzit

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