Wednesday, December 07, 2011

The Insects' Christmas (1913) "Rozhdestvo obitateley lesa" (Wladyslaw St...

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This fascinating stop motion animated film was produced by the Khanzhonkov Company, Moscow Russia in 1913 .

Due to the quality of film I had to work with, it is fully intact, however, the textual elements were removed. (NO, it is not supposed to be BLUE. This is the ORIGINAL black and white film.) A silent film, but I replaced the cutaway titles with overlay. I kept the same dialogue as it's original lower quality version. I enhanced the image and it became a wonderful dreamlike state. Since there was no audio, I created a layered audio effect with elements from the Edward Scissorhands soundtrack. Composer, Danny Elfman:

"Froeliche Weinachten" appears in the animation near the end, however, they should have spelled it "Froehliche Weihnachten", which is German for "Merry Christmas".

Vladislav Starevich (1882 - 1965), born Władysław Starewicz (Russian: Владисла́в Алекса́ндрович Старе́вич), was a Polish stop-motion animator who used insects and animals as his protagonists. (His name can also be spelled Starevitch, Starewich and Starewitch.) He is also referred to by some as Ladislaw Starewicz.

Władysław Starewicz was born in Moscow, Russia from Polish parents (father Aleksander Starewicz from Surviliškiai near Kėdainiai and mother Antonina Legęcka from Kaunas, both from "neighbourhood nobility", in hiding after the failed Insurrection of 1863 against the Tsarist Russian domination), and had lived in Lithuania which at that time was a part of the Russian Empire. The boy was raised by his grandmother in Kaunas, then a capital of Kovno Governorate. He attended Gymnasium in Dorpat (today Tartu, Estonia).

Starewicz had interests in a number of different areas; by 1910 he was director of a museum of natural history in Kaunas. There he made four short live-action documentaries for the museum. For the fifth film, Starewicz wished to record the battle of two stag beetles, but was stymied by the fact that the nocturnal creatures inevitably went to sleep whenever the stage lighting was turned on. Inspired by a viewing of Les allumettes animées [Animated Matches] (1908) by Emile Cohl, Starewicz decided to re-create the fight through stop-motion animation: he removed the legs and mandibles from two beetle carcasses, then re-attached them with wax, creating articulated puppets. The result was the short film Lucanus Cervus (1910), apparently the first animated puppet film with a plot and the natal hour of Polish and Russian animation.

In 1911, Starewicz moved to Moscow and began work with the film company of Aleksandr Khanzhonkov. There he made two dozen films, most of them puppet animations using dead animals. Of these, The Beautiful Leukanida (premiere - 1912), a fairy tale for beetles, earned international acclaim (one British reviewer was tricked into thinking the stars were live trained insects), while The Grasshopper and the Ant (1911) got Starewicz decorated by the czar. But the best-known film of this period, perhaps of his entire career, was Mest' kinematograficheskogo operatora (Revenge of the Kinematograph Cameraman, aka The Cameraman's Revenge) (1912), a cynical work about infidelity and jealousy among the insects. Some of the films made for Khanzhonkov feature live-action/animation interaction. In some cases, the live action consisted of footage of Starewicz's daughter Irina. Particularly worthy of note is Starevich's 41-minute 1913 film The Night Before Christmas, an adaptation of the Nikolai Gogol story of the same name. The 1913 film Terrible Vengeance won the Gold Medal at an international festival in Milan in 1914, being just one of five films which won awards among 1005 contestants.

Wishing to remain independent, Starevich moved to Fontenay-sous-Bois and started on a series of puppet films that would last for the rest of his life. In these films he was assisted first by his wife France Starevich and later by his daughter Irina (who had changed her name to Irène). The first of these films was Les Grenouilles qui demandent un roi (The Frogs That Demand a King, aka Frogland [US]) (1922), probably the closest Starevich ever came to political commentary in his French films.


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