Several years we wrote about a subtle and delicate stop motion animated film created from tea leaves by Natalia Mirzoyan. This holiday season, Soyuzmultfilm released her new work, Merry Grandmas! In Russia, kids typically spend a lot of time with their grandparents, usually with their grandmothers, many of whom still inhabit shabby apartments filled with all kinds of curiosities – fur coats long gone out of fashion, dim crystal vases, elaborate tea sets, dusty photo albums, and sleepy cats. Wise and grumpy grandmothers are matriarchs of many families.
On the New Year’s Eve, parents bring a little girl named Masha to her grandmother who lives in the center of Saint Petersburg. Masha anticipates an extremely boring evening with grandma and her elderly friends, but things turned out quite differently. Crafted in a wonderfully naive style, this film is a loving depiction of Russian grandmas, their vanishing world, and New Year magic set in the old quarters of Saint Petersburg.
“The Nose”, a short phantasmagoria written by Nikolai Gogol back in 1836, is among the most famous masterpieces of Russian literature. The protagonists, Major Kovalev, finds that his nose is missing from his face. Later he finds out that his nose – the Nose – becomes a high ranking official in the bureaucratic empire of Nicolas the First. In 1963 the animated version was created by a Russian emigre, Alexandre Alexeieff, made in his unique pinscreen style. Recently, Andrei Khrzhanovsky presented a new vision of the Gogol’s work featuring music by Dmitri Shostakovich. Khrzhanovsky, a veteran of the Soviet/Russian animation, is a director of many animated and mixed media pieces, including critically-acclaimed “The Glass Harmonica” and a somewhat less successful biopic of a Nobel prize laureate Joseph Brodsky. Stylistically and historically eclectic feature-length animation combines the original story taking place in the 19th century Saint Petersburg with the more recent Soviet and contemporary Russian artifacts and characters, including young pioneers and militia. The Nose grows and transforms into the menacing symbol of the authoritarian state, yet despite beginning an autonomous and sinister existence, it is still a part of the person, the dark side that dwells in everyone.
Here’s the teaser featuring an image of Sergei Eisenstein, Vsevolod Meyerhold, Dmitri Shostakovich, and Nikolai Gogol – ingenious mavericks of the filmmaking, theater, music, and literature.
Eduard Nazarov, an acclaimed artist, book illustrator, and animation director, passed away yesterday in Moscow. Nazarov, closely associated with Fyodor Khitruk, was involved in several of his projects, including Winnie the Pooh (1969-1972). In the 1990s, he became one of the co-founders of the SHAR studio, and later supervised a highly successful Mountain of Gems animated series based on folk tales of peoples of Russia. Nazarov is best-known as the creator of such classics as Once Upon a Dog / Once There Was a Dog (1982), a tragicomic story adopted from Ukrainian folklore about an old dog expelled by his owners, and Travels of an Ant(1983), a small ant’s quest to find his home. His beloved works feature a distinct visual style and combine lyricism with a mellow sense of humor.
Another great animated film by Leonid Shmelkov, My Own Personal Moose (Special Prize at the Berlin Film Festival) – a story about a timid boy named Misha, his childhood dream, and his relationship with his gloomy, short-spoken, but caring father. It’s a film about love, growing up, and a moose Misha hopes to find one day.
The Nativity by Mikhail Aldashin depicts events of the New Testaments in a subtle, delicate way. Naive style inspired by medieval art, muted colors, and characters presented in a childlike manner create an intimate vision of a miracle without traditional pomposity.
Cheburashka is a fuzzy creature from several iconic Soviet stop-motion cartoons created by Roman Kachanov, one of the founders of the Soviet stop-motion animation and Leonid Shvartsman, a prominent Soyuzmultfilm art-director. In recent decades, Cheburashka together with his friend, Gena the crocodile gained popularity in Japan. The new Cheburashka movie, a Russian-Japanese project, featuring award-winning animation director Mikhail Aldashin, carefully recreates environment of the classic Soviet cartoons.