Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Soviet: Singing Teacher (1968, Anatoly Petrov)

Singing Teacher (1968)
Soviet Union, 3 min
Directed by: Anatoliy Petrov
Written by: Roza Khusnutdinova

Singing Teacher (1968) {which also goes by the name of Kaleidoscope '68. The Hippopotamus} is a funny, ineffectual little comedy short from Soviet director Anatoly Petrov. The off-beat storyline, written by Roza Khusnutdinova, has a bulging hippopotamus reporting for singing lessons with an impatient music professor, but the hefty animal simply cannot carry a tune. After trying to teach his student how to sing with a soft melodious voice like himself, the teacher becomes angry and frustrated, so frustrated, in fact, that he inadvertently falls into the hippo's mouth and is promptly swallowed. The hippo now finds that, when he opens his mouth, the beautiful voice of his former teacher escapes his lips, and so lumbers off contentedly. This is a one-joke cartoon, certainly, but it has its charms. After all, how many films do you see that feature a hippo trying to perform music?

The animation style is quite interesting. Mostly black-and-white, the animation resembles the detailed sketch-drawings you might come across in a newspaper, fairly realistic but with slightly straighter lines and more jagged corners than is usual. The hippopotamus has an ungodly honk that clashes horribly with the beautiful music supplied by the old singing teacher, though the teacher himself is so snobbish and uptight that seeing him gobbled up is actually quite gratifying. Singing Teacher was Petrov's first film as director, though he had worked as an animator since at least 1958. I'm not completely certain, but I assume that this film was one entry in a series or collection of animated shorts, perhaps compiled together as one longer film; the Russian Animation Database also lists Kaleidoscope'68. The Cyclist and Kaleidoscope'68. The Fence, both directed by Lev Atamanov.

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