April 11th, 2010

drawing, old man

Round-up of translations from the past few months

I've been busy for the past few months and haven't had the time to post about the latest translations of Russian animation here (though I remind my readers, you can always go here; the wiki article gets updated first).

So here is a long list of films that have been translated since then, as well as a few that I had not written about before. They are organized by date of upload, with the name of the translator written next to it.

Oct. 29, 2009 - StopFear
"Music Box with a Secret" (1976) by Valeriy Ugarov at Soyuzmultfilm. Now this is an interesting one. The visual style is heavily inspired by the 1968 English "Yellow Submarine" film (trailer here), which was based on the music of The Beatles. But I think that the animation moves better in this short film than in that feature; no jerky movements and low frame rates here. And it has great music and direction - I think it's a masterpiece, frankly. I have never seen another Soviet cartoon with this style, so this must have been a one-time thing. It is based on a story by Vladimir Odoyevskiy.

The point of this cartoon is that it shows the magic of what engineers do - it's about the love of taking things apart to find out how they work and maybe to improve them. Take away all the fancy graphics and music, and that's the core idea of the film. There are many people who see no attraction in that at all, and they're probably the ones who won't like this film.

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drawing, old man

"There Lived a Tree" by Vladimir Petkevich (Belarusfilm, 1996)

It was nearly 3 years ago that I last talked about a film by Petkevich. That time, it was the beautiful and poetic "Forest Tales" by Yelena Petkevich, which was animated with sand.

This film that I discovered recently is by her husband, Vladimir Petkevich, and was made during the same period. It looks like the Petkeviches are very close to each other, because if you look at their respective films throughout the years, their styles change significantly and at about the same time. This mid-1990s style is my favourite. If anything, Yelena's films seem a little more polished to me, while Vladimir's lean to being a bit more cartoony and loose.

This film is the best work by Vladimir that I've seen. I don't know how well it transfers across cultures, but for me it brought back strong memories of living in a little house in the country, where (in contrast to sterile city apartments) there is life all around and all sorts of minor joys and tragedies to teach you about the world. But mainly, it is about beginnings and ends... about the life of a house which, after it is abandoned, becomes a new beginning for someone else... The film combines realism and symbolism, and I think it comes close to having the perfect mix between the two.

It makes heavy use of what in Russia is called total animation (there is no English term for the concept), which is when the entire image is redrawn frame-by-frame instead of moving the characters and keeping the background static (the usual method, which is done to keep time and costs low in 2D animation but results in limited camera movement and a certain statism). Its application seems to be more widespread in Russia, and I think it adds a dynamism and liveliness to the image and a greater connection with the artist, similar to fingerprints in clay animation.

The film is mostly wordless, except for a song at the end that I translated. English and Russian subtitles are available (if they don't show up, click on the triangle at the lower right of the video, and turn on CC).

Яблоня с листом
Яблоня с листом
всю осень шумела:

"Листочек же мой,
зелененький мой,
ты ж меня покидаешь."

"Не плачь яблонька.
не плачь милая;
я ж тебя не покину.

В осень упаду,
весной вырасту
...и с тобой буду."

Apple tree and leaf,
apple tree and leaf
rustled through the autumn:

"Dearest leaf of mine,
Greenest leaf of mine,
Why must you leave me?"

"Apple tree, don't cry.
Dearest, don't cry.
I will not leave you.

"This autumn I'll fall;
next spring I'll grow tall
...and be with you."

(Update 2011-01-04 - changed first 3 lines of translation)

P.S. This film also reminds me a little of The Lodgers of An Old House that was directed by Aleksey Karayev.