Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Mezhplanetnaya revoliutsiya / [Interplanetary Revolution]

MEZHPLANETNAYA REVOLIUTSIYA / Межпланетная революция / [La rivoluzione interplanetaria / Interplanetary Revolution] (State Film Technicum [GTK], SU 1924) D, SC, AD: Zenon Komissarenko, Yuri Merkulov, Nikolai Khodatayev, Vasilii Zhuravliov; intertitles: Ivan Pravov; DP: Sergei Lebedev, [Vasilii Alekseyev?]; incomplete, 35 mm, 200 m, 8' (21 fps); AN (flat-figure marionettes [articulated cut-outs]); print source: Gosfilmofond, Moscow. Russian intertitles. Teatro Verdi (Le Giornate del Cinema Muto, Pordenone), with e-titles in English and Italian, grand piano and band: Günter Buchwald & European Silent Virtuoso, 9 Oct 2013

Sergei Kapterev: "Interplanetary Revolution (Mezhplanetnaya revoliutsiya) was the first film produced by the experimental animation workshop founded at the State Film Technicum (GTK) – established in Moscow in 1919 and destined to become, as VGIK, one of the world’s famous film schools – under the leadership of three animation enthusiasts: Zenon Komissarenko and Yuri Merkulov, painters who both graduated from the Higher Art and Technical Studios (VKHUTEMAS), the Soviet counterpart of Germany’s Bauhaus; and sculptor Nikolai Khodatayev, a graduate of the more traditionalist Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture, which, in 1920, had been merged into VKHUTEMAS. The film’s crew also included Khodatayev’s sister Olga, who performed the job of animator and later became a prolific animation director; Sergei Lebedev, a former operatic bass who, according to his own and Merkulov’s memoirs, became the cameraman; and, possibly, sculptor Vasilii Alekseyev, who traditionally – and, in Merkulov’s words, erroneously – gets the credit for the film’s photography."

"Interplanetary Revolution is a loose, revue-like political satire parodying the 1924 blockbuster Aelita (for which Komissarenko did some animation work), a comedy-melodrama directed by the “old schooler” Yakov Protazanov which touched upon the topics of space flight, extraterrestrial life, and the possibility of a proletarian revolution on other planets. Although Interplanetary Revolution’s credits designate the trio of the workshop’s leaders as the authors of the screenplay, the film was shot basically without a screenplay, in accordance with a brief outline; the lively intertitles were written by Ivan Pravov, who would soon start a successful career as a non- animation film director."

"The makers of Interplanetary Revolution worked with a crude wooden animation desk constructed by a Technicum professor, and comprising an Ernemann camera; and with film stock purchased from private individuals with money won by Khodatayev in a sculpture contest."

"The film employed jointed, “flat-figure marionettes”, articulated cut- outs made of thick paper and fixed on the desk by pins. This technique had been used in the earliest Soviet animated films of Dziga Vertov’s colleague Aleksandr Bushkin, and although characterized by eminently schematic movement, it was perfectly suited to the workshop’s small and largely inexperienced collective."

"The GTK workshop turned to be a short-lived venture, as its three leaders possessed rather different artistic visions: Kazimir Malevich’s pupil Komissarenko was inclined towards monumental poster art (later in his life, he, like his teacher, would also become interested in ideologically unfashionable abstraction); Merkulov, towards more radical, grotesque caricature; and Khodatayev, towards more realistic representations."

"Interplanetary Revolution did not get a theatrical release. However, the film set a valuable precedent, demonstrating an artisanal quality which Soviet animation would more or less consistently preserve throughout its history. Interplanetary Revolution’s poster-like, collage- influenced aesthetic put it among the experiments of the Soviet artistic avant-garde and prepared the ground for the workshop’s more ambitious and politically specific work, China Aflame (Kitai v ogne, 1925), a comment on the Soviet policy with regard to its strategically important Eastern neighbor. After that, the workshop’s alumni continued working at the animation departments established at several Soviet studios – most notably, at Mezhrabpom-Rus, which had produced the spoofed Aelita." – Sergei Kapterev (The GCM Catalogue)

AA: Exciting futuristic visions in this propaganda caricature, a parody of socialist science fiction. Someone uttered the words "Terry Gilliam" and "Monty Python" (animation prologues). The visual quality of the print is on the weak side.

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