Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Soviet: A Strange Voice (1949, Ivan Ivanov-Vano)

A Strange Voice (1949)
Soviet Union, 10 min
Directed by: Ivan Ivanov-Vano
Written by: Dmitri Tarasov
I'd previously only been familiar with animator Ivan Ivanov-Vano through this collaborations with Yuriy Norshteyn, but he was quite a prominent figure in the field of Soviet animation, active for nearly sixty years from the 1920s. In fact, he is often affectionately termed the "Patriarch of Soviet animation." A Strange Voice (1949) is a breathtakingly beautiful example of the master's craft, despite serving propagandistic purposes. By the 1940s, Soviet artists at Soyuzmultfilm studio had been influenced considerably by the American work of Walt Disney, and thus their animation has a quiet, realistic style that is far removed from the more unique (and, by then, obsolete) cartoon designs that had originated in the Soviet Union {see Bazaar (1934), and you'll know what I mean}. Given the degree to which Soyuzmultfilm owed its new style to American animators, it's rather ironic that this particular cartoon condemns the work of foreign artists, albeit in the guise of a pleasant and amusing cartoon made to appeal to Russian youngsters.

A Strange Voice opens in the pristine Russian wilderness, where a nightingale regales the other birds with his beautiful whistling song. Then a stranger arrives in the midst. A black-and-white crow awkwardly alights on a branch and denounces the nightingale's performance as being outdated. She proposes to give a concert of her own singing voice, and the Russian birds politely accept the offer. But when the crow opens her mouth, there is no beautiful singing voice, but only the grating honk of a trumpet. Apparently, this cartoon has American jazz in its sights, and the Russians are to have no part in this grotesque new brand of music. The crow is unceremoniously whistled and then pecked off the stage, and the humble nightingale is able to continue its pleasant song. Providing you look past the propaganda, this ten-minute short is beautifully animated, with a nice musical soundtrack. And, for the record, I happen to like jazz.

1 comment:

  1. Yes, it is well animated, but boy was it creepy considering the message and who it was being said by (Stalin).


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.