Showing posts with label Russia. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Russia. Show all posts

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Anton Dyakov "Bach" (2010)

Here's one for when you want to chill out, relax, listen to the sounds of a forest at night, owls, assorted other bird song, the distant sound of a train. Live at a snail's pace. Listen to Bach. Watch Bach. Anton Dyakov's gently humorous five minute short takes a short journey the length of a branch as a snail goes for a drink. It has company, notably fireflies and a large fish. There's even a commotion as humans pass by. The only respondent to the YouTube link wonders what is it all for. I've wondered the same myself over the years. But I think I know the answer in this case. Thirst. Anton studied at Moscow's Shar Studio. He has a new film, Kostya, out for Annecy. The music is Art of Fugue, BWV 1080: Contrapunctus 1, the players The Amsterdam Loeki Stardust Quartet. 

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Natalia Mirzoyan "My Childhood Mystery Tree" (2009)

My Childhood Mystery Tree is not only rather beautifully done, it is an intriguing film made by a debut director, Natalia Mirzoyan, who also provides the script, art and animation. The screenshot reveals the quality of the art and it is heart warming that the skills displayed by those soviet animators of old are present in 29 year old Natalia's work. Initially there is much of a Louis Carroll or CS Lewis in the opening scenes of the 10 minute short. A young boy loses his teddy bear discovering him at various locations in a series of alternative realities that seem to exist in the hollows and branches of a huge tree, to which the boy returns after each adventure. But there is a darker side in the seizure of children's toys by flying eagles in a world overseen by an omnipotent Bird. Like scenes in a nightmare, reality is a pliable substance. My favourite world is that of a seemingly happy childhood scene where the children are at play suddenly to be frozen, revealed as one dimensional figures, toppled over by a storm. Unwisely attempting an explanation .... if one takes the great tree as a symbol of childhood, woven together from all the stolen toys, and the Bird as motherhood, then the loss of the teddy bear is that of innocence with the onset of the adult world. Interestingly, the boy is no mere passive creature, having a hand in the destruction of his own childhood. Excellent music from Marina Landa and Sergey Vasilyev greatly add to the mystery of it all. That and some sumptuous use of paintbrush in the 2D piece. It was produced by Studio of Computer Graphics and Animation in St Petersburg. Natalie is a graduate of both Yerevan State University and Saint Petersburg Institute of Decorative-Applied Arts. She has a new film, Chinti, out in time for Annecy. Natalia elbowed out the promised love story that is tomorrow's fare. I can already hear the howls of protest....but we'll leave them for tomorrow.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Dmitry Geller "Greetings from Kislovodsk" (2000)

The arrival of a man and woman at a hazily drawn railway station, together and yet apart, sets the tone for Greetings from Kislovodsk, a film depicting the breakdown of a relationship in an oddly fragmented style. The figures are simply drawn, but with a grace about their movements at once sinuous and affecting. The action (courtship, departures, meanderings) is movingly set against a series of atmospheric photographs from earlier in the 20th century, frozen moments on vacation or with family, speaking of happier moments that give the parting of the pair a universality, emphasised by an effective soundtrack of music and sound effects, of which the sound of the train is predominant. Russian director, Dmitry Geller, uses locations evocatively, the station of arrivals and departures, the subtly lit dance floor, tango music speaking of courtship and romance, the beach with a battery of photographs almost as stage flats projecting images of happy families, a fairground’s carousel heavy with symbolism, life played out in circles, the condensation on the railway window as those photographic images pass by as poignant, discarded billboards. Dmitry’s allusive world of watery colours and shadow is a treat, exploring love's freshness and loss. Thank you, Pavlovich, once again, for your recommendation and fine taste in movies.

Friday, 18 June 2010

Nikolay Fedorov "Dragonfly and Ant" (1961)

Dragonfly and Ant parallels the lives of the two insects, both representing totally different approaches to life, one without a care in the world, the other industrious. Thus, whilst our pink, see-through, tutu clad flyer slumbers in bed or dances on flower heads, every need catered for by nature’s bounty, the busy ants toil away in construction, providing for the winter months. The film is just as well made as anything by Disney plus there is gentle subtly in the humour – the sleeping ant in the light bulb or distorted image in the raindrop mirror come to mind. There is also something of a moral tale, the piece being based on one of Aesop’s fables via the pen of the Russian writer and fabulist, Ivan Krylov. The depiction of the ants at work is wonderfully ingenious, something of a Flintstones world in miniature scale, snails and grasshoppers replacing brontosaurus and saber tooth. (The Flintstones series commenced in 1960, one year earlier than this.) The tone though is entirely different. Nikolay Fedorov’s entertaining classic is a charming world. The aesthete dragonfly of course gets her comeuppance, winter arrives and the workers are not so forthcoming in their hospitality, enjoying the festival merriment whilst our dancer finds a leaf small comfort in the snow. But the mood of the piece is such as to pave the way for an entirely apt conclusion.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Nina Bisyarina "A Trip to the Seaside" (Поездка к морю 2008)

I used to set "My Holidays" as an English composition. The students would lose the will to live (or was it me?) just as they arrived at their destination, five or twenty pages later. Not a mention of the holiday. Russian animator Nina Bisyarina takes the same route in the marvellous A Trip to the Seaside with one difference – the pair actually do arrive at their destination – but don’t raise your hopes. No, I have it very wrong, two differences: the journey is utterly enthralling. I have featured Nina’s work previously but this gem is the best yet. A young girl and her mother are taking an interminable journey to the seaside involving sleeping overnight. The child clutches a postcard with two tropical parrots, a palm tree, the sea and an ocean going vessel. During the journey the image sustains her vivid imagination. An adult holds a glass drinks container the contents of which flop about to inspire a vision of the sea in the postcard, billowing curtains on the train provoke postcard palm trees to flap about, parrots fly from the card. Always we are inside the world of the child with a tincture of the mundane, adult world that would intrude were it not for the girl’s determination to treasure image and dreams. The hand drawn style of Nina’s work is captivating as is the accomplished animation, the colouring in all its delicacy, as well as the recreation of a listless rail journey spiced with an innocent child’s imagination. Quite, quite wonderful. So many high points: the train stops at a station and bunny rabbits and teddy bears leap outside the carriage window, a vast cruise ship passes by in the night, the fresh light of morning streaming into the train, and mother and child at their destination. Do read niffiwan’s journal ( recounting his highlights of the 15th Open Russian Festival of Animated Film. Nina shared the Best Direction award with Valentin Olshvang's Rain in the Evening, And thank you, pavlovich74, for your welcome recommendation of one of the best films on the blog this year. If there is a better young Russian director out there at the moment I have yet to see them.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Vladimir Popov "Bobik visits Barbos" (1977)

The choice of animated films is large and time limited. At first glance Bobik visits Barbos appears simply a well made cartoon for children, the two dogs let loose in the home and wrecking the joint. Left in charge of the house, Barbos invites his friend Bobik for tea. And much else. Two cute dogs, emptying the fridge, knocking pots off tables, spilling a noxious red substance over the floors. Writers Nikolai Nosov and Mikhail Libin (screenplay), and director Vladimir Popov give the piece a charm that draws one in. Bobik lives in an outside kennel and is treated badly. He views the broom as something with which he is beaten. Barbos revels in the role of host. Talking himself up, he can imagine a revolution, with him as master. Of course, like Cinderella, the clock strikes ... six and the master returns to a horror show. What will he do? Someone’s been sleeping in his bed. Soyuzmultfilm vintage 1977, and a fine one it is, immaculately translated by Julia. A tale of dogs but also of very human fallibility. A particularly marvellous ending too.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Anatoliy Petrov "The Singing Teacher" (1968)

The Singing Teacher was the debut film of the great Russian director, Anatoliy Petrov (1937 – 2010) who died last Wednesday. For an orbituary may I point to an authorative and appreciative digest of Anatoliy's life by Georgiy Borodin, translated by niffiwan. The Singing Teacher takes an incongruously huge hippopotamus into the study of a suitably academic professor who, although initially startled, nevertheless attempts to teach the beast to sing. Hippo’s are not born for the high notes and the old fellow becomes increasingly frustrated as the lesson degenerates. Neither can be faulted for effort however though the scholar has to sink low indeed to raise standards. Stylistically I should point to the realistic manner of the artwork, albeit the hippo has a head and body impossibly squared, the antithesis of art one might think. Anatoliy's work is available widely although comparatively few of his films have English subtitles. I shall certainly write more about his work.

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Tatiana & Marina Moshkova "The Laughterfall" & "In Scale" (2007)

Unusually for the Animation Blog I shall introduce the animators before the animation. Those in question are the subject of a clever live action piece by Hungary’s Peter Vadocz, Twins. Tatiana and Marina Moshkova are featured side by side, almost as one but not quite. Tatiana (on the right) made The Laughterfall in 2007, their first year at St Petersburg State University. A conventionally drawn animation about snowmen, I could have used it at Christmas though we’ve had plenty of the white stuff lately and there is a melting giant in my front garden. My family’s sad snowman fades away alone but Tatiana has four of the creatures competing against each other in an ultimately doomed competition given a certain bright individual in the skies above. I wonder how much was intentional in theme as, despite grandiose plans, the snowmen suffer the fate of all mortals. 2007 was a good year, with sister Marina making In Scale, a precisely drawn piece indeed. Created in a deceptively simple manner, it features an indomitable mother bird whose dedication to maintaining nest, egg and hatchling knows no bounds, has no mercy and wreaks havoc all around her. One has to maintain a sense of proportion but does any mother about her child? Graduating in 2009, Marina was named best student of the year. I aim to take a further look at both women’s later work.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Elizaveta Skvortsova "Lullabies of the World" (2006 ....)

Continuing my exploration of the work of Russian director Elizaveta Skvortsova today’s post concerns Lullabies of the World, a series of short films in which a folk song from a country is animated in the style suggested by the culture, albeit all share a stylised approach aimed, primarily though not exclusively, at children. Chukchi Lullaby provides a solution to a problem afflicting parents everywhere: how to quiet a screaming child. Commencing with a polar bear making its steady way over the ice, the unborn baby evident in the womb, we leave the blue of the Siberian for the interior of their hide covered tepee, any tranquillity disturbed by the bawling infant. Parents don masks, dance and sing to quell the infant. African Lullaby explains how in that continent, there is no need for such antics for the most attractive flies I have ever seen induce sleep in all the people and wild animals. Turkish Lullaby employs vivid colours in its explanation of the diet of calves and the origin of babies. If being found under a gooseberry bush is considered bizarre, discovering the new born babe in a cabbage is much more rational as it is less prickly for delicate skin. The three named lullabies are offered in a random selection. All animations in the series share a considerable beauty, the visual elements arranged to the music with an extraordinary degree of skill and such a vibrant sense of colour. They generally end with parents cuddling child and can be found readily enough on YouTube, emanating from the above links. Because I wish to support such work I have attempted to discover a link to the DVD series from the studio, Metronome Films. I shall update if and when.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Elizaveta Skvortsova "Wait, Be So Kind" (2002)

This is the first of three posts concerning the Russian director, Elizaveta Skvortsova. I'll commence with her thesis film of 2002, Wait, Be So Kind. The story is an age old one of a struggle with Death, personified here as a young woman whose dark presence is somewhat challenged by a lively girl cast down to Death's kingdom. The girl has been dispatched by her father, the king, angry at a defeat in battle and by the sight of his daughter embracing her lover. The spirited girl proceeds to argue with Death in order that she return to life if only for a minute. "Do you want me to tell you how beautiful it is to be alive?" Death relents - for one night only. Elizaveta frames the narrative as a slide projection show, as a girl (looking exactly like Death) presents a late night story, a scary one, using old fashioned equipment, complete with mechanical whirring sound. The music is at once melodic and repetitive, a wistful carousel ride, whilst the cut-out style has a simplicity about it that is both appealing and apt, particularly as emblems of life, in all their colour, are wheeled on towards the close. Viewed from the perspective of a child, one fleshes the details out oneself. Death is a lonely figure, strangely discomforted in the presence of Life. Elizaveta attended the State Institute of Filmmaking (VGIK). She was 24 when she made this most beautifully designed short. And yes, life is beautiful.

Monday, 11 January 2010

Alexandr Menshikov "Diglator"

Digital Cake is a site new to me in which Russian films with English subtitles, including animation, are screened. It is an invaluable source. In fact, today's movie, Diglator by Alexandr Menshikov, was one I already had earmarked for review before the discovery. The film is inspired by Solaris, a science fiction novel by the Polish writer Stanislaw Lem, exploring the difficulties of communication between humans and aliens. Alexandr's short is set in an industrial landscape that dwarfs the solitary man striding enigmatically through the innards of a factory, the size of which almost overwhelms him. There appears to be some impending sense of crisis. When the walker does meet with a solitary worker their conversation, about a fault in a reactor, is succinct and transactional, almost as if the scale of the place overwhelms normal speech. The ultimate destination for our man is appropriately enough a giant robot that mirrors on a vast scale the actions of its now master who strides purposefully out into a windswept planet. A bleak perspective then but rather fetchingly drawn given that one is dealing with steel structures, ventilation fans and suchlike. In particular, the director uses a dour colour palette with interesting textured effects and use of shadow. I have been unable to discover anything about the director. I am once again indebted to pavlovich74.
July 2012: I have just received an email from Alexandr Menshikov's sister Katya who lives in the UK. Her brother lives in Siberia and animation is his hobby. She should be proud of him. He has great talent.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Isolda Solodova "Spider" (1994)

Given that the weather meant I missed yesterday’s judging panel for the 2010 British Animation Awards (where one of my co-judges was to have been Joanna Quinn, ironically also beaten by the snow) here is Spider, a basically wintry piece by Isolda Solodova, one of the animators responsible for Alexander Petrov’s 2006 film My Love, about which I intend to write shortly. A product of the Sverdlovsk Film Studio, the short is as atmospheric as one can find. Within a decrepit shack lives a spider that, apart from eating flies, spends most of his time looking at the snow from the window. His world changes when a beautiful young woman moves in, inspiring his big eyed frame with thoughts above his station. Is he a frog in search of a kiss from a princess? Can he spin a silken web beautiful enough to ward off the broom? YouTuber pavlovich74, that remarkable purveyor of quality Russian animation, brought it to my attention as a “little gem”. In its dark way it is, as the wintry landscape and drab interior is introduced to Spring by a shapely, seductive maiden, much admired by our arthropod. Those 90% of women who allegedly suffer from arachnophobia will sympathise with the lady’s plight. Those 100% of men who have desired the unobtainable will have feelings aroused. I prefer spiders to flies.

Monday, 30 November 2009

Alexander Alexeieff and Claire Parker "Le Nez" (The Nose) (1963)

Le Nez (The Nose) directed by husband and wife team Alexander Alexeieff and Claire Parker is a film cited as a brilliant example of the pinscreen technique, a shadow animation in effect whereby Alexander works on the positive side of a large black canvas full of pins and Claire on the negative side; the more the flat headed pins are pushed in the lighter is the effect, creating the look of mezzotint with its textured shades of grey. I can scarcely conceive of a more labour intensive form of animation particularly given that pins numbered in their hundreds of thousands are used, albeit the pair used a variety of instruments to more quickly achieve different effects. The surreal tale itself is from the 19th century Russian writer, Nikolai Gogol, commencing with a barber discovering a nose in a freshly baked loaf of bread. The nose promptly takes a life of its own, much to the chagrin of the young man who is lost and bereft without it. The man hides the empty space with a hat and pleads for the nose to return. As Nose is dressed rather more elegantly that its erstwhile owner, the plea is rejected. Reference to the nose as a metaphor for losing another more masculine part of the anatomy is obvious given the character's loss of confidence around the ladies. I personally am not persuaded by the charms of the accompanying musical soundtrack with its mix of traditional Chinese and rather discordant percussion. It takes the short even more into the territory of art film whereas some of the images of the nose in costume or the man frantically attempting to affix a constantly falling nose are high comedy. The directors in fact considered their work as high art and would not be concerned with my more base requirements. (I much prefer the couple's earlier A Night on Bald Mountain with its lovely music by Moussorgsky.) There are few animators around who use pinscreen, Jacques Drouin being a notable exception, his Mindscape a beautiful animation.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Fyodor Khitruk "Icarus And The Wise Men" (1976)

Icarus And The Wise Men takes a well aired tale and squeezes wit and significance out. Icarus dared to challenge the Gods. Well, not exactly Gods here but wise fatheads who lie back amidst the tombstones and regurgitate fatuous sayings that prove man is unable to fly: “What Jupiter may the oxen may not.” They reckoned without Icarus’ determination. Time and again he launches himself from his cliff, plummeting to earth, buried by tombstone after tombstone, only to rise for more. When, lo and behold, he flies, the wise men decree that man cannot, nay, must not, fly. Generations of children have it drilled into them. Teacher says, "Jump" they chant, "How high?" They don’t all listen though. Guess from the screenshot below the bright spark who dares to challenge truth? Soyuzmultfilm’s Fyodor Khitruk wrote and directed the sparingly drawn piece. “The higher you rise the deeper you fall” says the third wise man. Peter Klassen has provided the sub-titles for a subtle piece of work I much enjoyed. A talented man, Fyodor, and I bet many readers of the blog will not have heard of him. In his nineties now, one of the greats of Soviet animation, Fyodor published The Profession of Animation in 2008 and has several great films to his name including an excellent Winnie the Pooh (1969). I have written about another of his films for later in the week.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Yevgeniy Sivokon "Laziness" (1979)

A rather loose reference to the word "satire" in relation to Monday's Russian movie gained gentle admonition from the admirable Niffiwan who recommended Yevgeniy Sivokon's 1979 cut out Laziness as a more genuine example. He was indisputably right but I was unprepared for the fascination of it all. A snail slides across the dirty glass of an aquarium in which resides a bespectacled fish, tiny reading glasses perched on his nose, blowing bubbles. Then the opening credits and we are introduced to the narrator, an obese man eternally eating lunch whose lugubrious voice explains he is too lazy to clean the glass, or feed the fish, or separate the killer fish from the rest, or save the cat: a litany of excuses and an indolence that plays havoc with the normal pet/owner relationship. Suffice it to say the man ends up in the water providing a salutary lesson in the dangers of sloth. Laziness exemplifies satire well. Taken on a political or personal level, the point is well made. "My brain has become the brain of a fish. It's in no state to think of anything...but why disturb the waters." Lovely chunky cut outs too. And the film is so funny as fish, having gobbled up its fellows, eyes the cat. Faineant diner eyes the action. "Poor Vasya. My only friend. I ought to help him." Well, yes. Thanks Niffiwan and I'm going to tidy out the garage tomorrow. Or soon.

Monday, 9 November 2009

Galina Barina "A Long Time Ago" (1990)

I have often remarked on the lack of publicity given to the great Russian directors. Such is Galina Barina whose filmography is remarkable but Google her name and count the hits. A Long Time Ago (and Part 2) is an exquisite movie of depth, wit and not a little grace. Set in a far off land where dragons rule, it encompasses coruscating satire on the state of our world and utilisation of those ancient myths surrounding the slaying of dragons and sacrifice of maidens. The opening is accompanied by awful synthesised musac that I declare would turn me off entirely if it were not quickly replaced by an altogether more tuneful soundtrack. Therefore ignore the opening musical salvo and enjoy a mechanised world (a city/castle) in which the future is a brave new world where the machine takes the strain. Or maybe not. A block is transformed into an egg only to revert back to its original form in the factory process, young lovers have their omelette/ sandwich made for them by a machine that squeezes out and discards the contents in the process. The pair inhabit a world of high rise apartments dominated by numerous television sets. When the lovers’ peace is disrupted by an invasion of cameras, they are feted in a palace before being rudely separated, the girl given over to sacrifice. This propels her partner to go don armour and do battle with the huge mechanised dragon. The plot development is excellent, the circular and ultimately pointless factory assembly line foreshadowing the conclusion as our victorious destroyer of dragons reaps the spoils of war. Having cuffed governments the world over, Galina adds a swipe or two at our celebrity culture that dominates television screens today even more than twenty years ago when the movie was made. A Long Time Ago is presented on YouTube and, in so far as it is required in a largely speechless movie, translated by Niffiwan who contributes a full, intelligent discussion of a stimulating film that should be far better known.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Valentin Karavayev "Mumu" (1987)

Lovers of a good story will surely fall for Mumu (and Part 2). Gerasim is a giant, mute porter whose passion is for the faded beauty, Tatiana. Unfortunately the tyrannical widow for whom he works forces the woman to marry the drunkard Kapiton Klimov in the mistaken belief that she would achieve his redemption. No such transformation occurs and she is sent off to distant lands, leaving Gerasim broken hearted. He finds consolation when he saves the puppy Mumu from drowning and forges a relationship to fill the void left by Tatiana. When the widow takes an initial shine to the puppy, the brute promptly bites her and Gerasim suffers another loss. Based on Ivan Turgenev's story, this is masterly stuff from director Valentin Karavayev. He uses cut-outs and all the considerable resources of the Soyuzmultfilm studio whose work fascinates me. The studio connection guarantees exquisitely drawn images from a veritable army of artists and animators, plus blissful music from Alexander Mikhailovich Raskatov. For the Soviets, a tale of a domestic dictator who shows no redeeming features is as much manna as Mumu; for the rest of us it shows a studio at the height of its powers, a golden age of animation the like of which we shall see no more. There are so many scenes to relish - where the whole house is agitated because the mistress has had a sleepless night, or Gerasim floating off into the gloom. I could equally enthuse about the atmospheric backgrounds. Maybe I'll just revel in the consummate use of cut-outs.
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