niffiwan (niffiwan) wrote,

Shareholders (1963)

Another film that I translated, aided by julia2night in a few spots.

"Shareholders" is an ambitious ideological satire directed by Roman Davydov in 1963 (Davydov is best known for directing a feature-length adaptation of Kipling's "Jungle Book" in the 1970s). A certain amount of ideological cartoons like this were always being made, though it was never a large percentage (in WW2, it rose to 50%).

What most attracted me to this film is the wonderful art direction, done by Perch Sarkisyan. This was Sarkisyan's first "break"; after this film, he became a director himself and made two films with a similar visual style before his death in 1970. It is also one of the very few examples of widescreen in Soviet animation, using a 2.37:1 aspect ratio.

To summarize, this is a critique of "people's capitalism", a term which seems to be much more widespread in Russian than in English. It stars an American worker who starts out a believer and ends up a revolutionary. Some things here are probably more true now than when the film was made (i.e. buying your house on credit that you can't afford). Overall, the satire is variable, with some hits and some misses. Living so far away from the US, they could understand it only through a certain lens. And so the life of the rich, being America's most visible export, is better captured than that of the poor (despite some odd mistakes, such as a garage door that opens sideways). The middle part of the film is the weakest for this reason; the experience of joblessness is portrayed as going on a very long and lonely walk, but the questions of how Michael Chase gets food, where he sleeps, are not dealt with. There's a bizarre episode about a shop that buys skeletons (post-mortem, I suppose?) but a golden opportunity to criticize the capitalist health system is missed - maybe because it was unbelievable to the creators that a sick man would have to pay for his care. On the other hand, the metaphor of American society as a high-risk, high-reward race track at the end of the film is a stroke of genius.

Subtitles in English or Russian can be selected by clicking on the triangle on the bottom right of the video and turning on "CC".

I don't know why Roman Davydov decided to do a film like this. Maybe it was handed down from above. Maybe he decided to take it on, since it would be a good career move and allow him to be more bold in other areas. In any case, he took his job seriously and made a film that is rather striking and daring, regardless of ideology.

P.S. According to Georgiy Borodin, "the most difficult acting scenes" in this film were animated by Anatoliy Petrov.
Tags: 1960s, davydov, subtitles, translation

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