Thursday, December 4, 2008

bugs in his shorts

Obsessed as I am with stop-motion photography, I can't believe I've only just discovered the work of Wladyslaw Starevitch whose turn of the century (last century) animation is what computer animators attempt to imitate today.

A childhood passion for entomology inspired Starevitch to film insects. Under the heat of the only shooting lights available in Moscow in 1909, the insects died. But no matter. He used the bugs anyway, wiring the legs to the thorax with sealing wax and employing stop-motion photography to show them in action. After the British screening of one of his films, London journalists, convinced the insects were alive, praised not only the film, but the talent of the "unidentified Russian scientist who can train insects to act." (Those amazing Russians.) 

Starevitch also directed films in which leading actors of the day appeared, but he preferred working with dolls and (dead) insects because "actors never did what you wanted them to." In 1920, he moved to Paris to escape the Russian Revolution, anglicized his name to Ladislaw Starewicz and made over forty films casting inanimate objects, including dolls, branches, rocks, insects and puppets of his own creation. His The Tale of the Fox, a film that took him over ten years to produce, is still considered one of the best stop-motion films ever made.

In celebration of the season, here's a Starewicz short about Father Christmas. Entomologist viewers will note that the cast of insects include a Dung Beetle and a Grasshopper, not a Ladybug and a Dragonfly as indicated by the English captions which were added much later.

Other Starewicz films can be viewed here, including The Cameraman's Revenge (1912), a gripping drama about infidelity among insects.

Tip of the director's visor to Casey. 


California Girl said...

my husband and I watched the bugs Christmas with delight. I sent him a link to this post.

I'm including a link for you to an iconic stop motion film you should remember. I remember it from Drivers Ed! Anyway, I just wrote a post on this recently as it brought back youthful memories too tho' not as elegant as yours:

Ad Broad, oldest working writer in advertising said...

Oh California Girl, luvvvv it! Never saw this film back in the day. Must have been napping when it showed in driver's ed! Thanks for posting.