Sunday, September 24, 2006

Field Report: THE STORY OF THE FOX (LE ROMAN DE RENARD)


When the theater gently darkened, the 1937 film began to click through on spockets, and I saw the first few scenes of The Story of the Fox, all I could think was how much all my animator friends who visit here would LOVE to see this superlative stop-motion film. Today was the first-ever, ULTRA RARE English undertitled cinema screening of the restored Ladislas Starewitch film. It was an awe-inspiring look at a bold artist's inventive storytelling, rambunctious creativity, and the kind of filmmaking I absolutely dream of for my projects.

Tonight the bare description of the event, with more on my personal experience with it and some great people I met there, added tomorrow.

THE AMERICAN CINEMATHEQUE PRESENTS
UNSHOWN CINEMA: THE ANIMATED FILMS THAT GOT AWAY
AT THE AERO THEATRE Presented in Association with the Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA)

screening of THE STORY OF THE FOX (LE ROMAN DE RENARD), (1937 (1940 Â? 41), 65 min.). Russian/French animation pioneer Ladislas Starewitch is considered the first animator ever to use stop-motion puppetry to tell coherent stories, and his alternately darkly humorous and lyrical works have influenced generations of animators, from George Pal to Jan Svankmajer to Tim Burton and the Brothers Quay. For Americans, REYNARD THE FOX (LA ROMAN DE RENARD) is his largely unseen masterpiece, a stop-motion marvel filmed mostly between 1929 and 1931 about the charming animal trickster of European folklore and his adventures as an unrepentant rogue. Shelved for six years as Starewitch adapted his techniques to the new medium of movie sound, this unique work had its world premiere in Paris in 1937 before being re-voiced and rescored for a 1940 Â? 1941 French re-release during the WWII German occupation. Starewitch'?s techniques are remarkable for their cinematic sophistication, deploying crash zooms, whip pans and motion blurs to lend his whimsical, often life-sized puppet creations (some nearly as large as their creator) the feel of real life. Despite some overtly subversive political messages, the unfortunate Vichy connection has kept REYNARD THE FOX largely unseen in America. The film'?s master elements languished in storage for 25 years after Starewitch'?s death before being reassembled and restored in 1990, a restoration on which the current version is based. Plus rare short films by Ladislas Starewitch. Screening to be introduced by animation historian, Charles Solomon.

It's currently available on (European) dvd and it was announced at the event that the restored version screened today will be a centerpiece of an upcoming touring Starewich celebration. If you can, I hope you'll find a way to see this stop-motion masterpiece achievement on a big 35mm screen.

French dvd available here
And also via French Amazon (!)
The DVD called LE ROMAN DE RENARD THE TALE OF THE FOX
the original French version with an undertitled English translation
commentary by Ladislas Starewitch grand daughter.
Some drawings of the film
A short film : FETICHE EN VOYAGE DE NOCES BOBBY NAVIGATOR
Biographical notes and a filmography of Ladislas Starewitch

2 comments:

  1. YES!!!! The fox is da MAN!!! So glad you got to see it, and jealous that it was on the silver screen. Truly one of the best I've ever seen.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Mike, I couldn't believe the Lioness' facial expressions especially. They were completely fluid and life like.

    ReplyDelete

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