Initially daily but now sporadic blog about anime and world animation with a specific focus on the artists behind the work. Written by Ben Ettinger.
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Archives for: November 2005, 03

Thursday, November 3, 2005

05:27:15 pm , 629 words, 9148 views     Categories: Animation, Misc, Indie, Movie

Propavshaya Gramota / Okiura memo

The Lost Letter, V. & Z. Brumberg, 1945I mentioned the beautiful scene with the horse flying about in The Humpbacked Horse, which was made in 1947. I recently saw the film The Lost Letter from 1945, and it also has a very beautifully animated scene with a horse flying around and twisting and turning in much the same manner as in the later film, so it felt like there might have been an influence there. Unlike the other quite famous Russian features, I'd never heard of The Lost Letter, but I thought it was just splendid, totally unlike any of the other films I've seen, and very successful as a film, with an unusual approach that still worked more some sixty years later, and this right after Russia was coming out of the war. The film was directed by the sister team of Zinaida and Valentina Brumberg, who were born at the turn of the century and had a long and prolific career making animated films, with a focus on mid-length films like this one, right until the year before Valentina's death in 1975. I don't know of any other female filmmakers who have left behind that kind of legacy in animation over the same period. The Lost Letter is somewhat different from what I've sampled of the rest of their filmography in that it stands up solidly to viewing by an adult, with its darkly humorous tone, whereas most of their films are squarely aimed at children, with moralizing messages aplenty - though to be fair, this seems to be a common trait of most Russian animated films of the period. Based on a Gogol story about a Cossack who leaves to deliver a letter only to find himself on a demonic journey after a drunken binge, what immediately catches the eye are the brilliantly charicatural designs that vividly capture the look of Russian peasants of the 19th century. I've never seen designs quite like these used in an animated film. Folk motifs may be a commonplace in Russian animation, but stylization is usually very strong. What's impressive about these designs is that they strike a fine balance between the realistic and the stylized, gravitating more towards the realistic. The animation is typically fluid for this period, the forms loose and elastic, but the acting is reined in and lacks the homogenous overreaction that puts me off to a lot of animation of this period, focusing instead on realistic expression and creating a feeling of realistic movement less through body weight than through close observation of gestures. The animation felt much more potent for being focused. I've noticed that the Brumbergs tend to have a different approach to movement in each of their films depending on the story and style, but it's always nuanced and closely observed like it is here. All in all a very stimulating film.

Hiroyuki Okiura has made a few appearances in IGPX - 1 and 5 so far. The last time he showed up on the tube was in the last ep of the first, Mashimo Popolo Crois in 1999, and before that 5 years earlier in the G Gundam op, so it's kind of an event. He usually spends so much time creating shorter scenes of awe-inspiring density for movies, so it's good to see him doing little pieces like this here and there. The scene in ep 5 here was kind of amusing, as it felt like a cardboard-box version of the building collapse in Akira. If they'd done a pan down follow it would have been nearly identical. The only other moment I found bearable was the bit with the colorful lines at the beginning. Ogura? Or was that CG too?? I noticed he was in 5 as well. Sad what he's reduced to now that there aren't any interesting projects like Dead Leaves at IG.