sábado, 15 de diciembre de 2012

The Cameraman's Revenge

The Cameraman's Revenge [Mest' kinematograficheskogo operatora]
Directed by Wladyslaw Starewicz
Russia, 1912

While I've been a lame, absentee landlord of a host for the Caravana de recuerdos Foreign Film Festival for much of the year, Tom from Wuthering Expectations was kind enough to overlook that and challenged me to watch The Cameraman's Revenge with him as part of the "movie challenge" portion of the festivitivies.  Leave it to Tom, the only person audacious enough to challenge me to a watchalong all year, to select the best insect-acted silent film I've ever seen!  Mest' kinematograficheskogo operatora, as it was originally called at the time of its 1912 release barring an unnoticed typo or two from me, is a stupendous 12-minute stop-action animation feature which takes that hoariest of silent movie clichés--infidelity among insects--and turns it into a gripping arthropod revenge fantasy.  Mr. and Mrs. Beetle appear to have a perfect relationship at the outset.  At least, that is what it seems until Mr. Beetle takes his hard, manly exoskeleton and his Russian beetle pheromones and swaggers over to the Gay Dragonfly night club to meet his sultry young dragonfly lover.  Unfortunately for the two invertebrate lovebirds, an altercation between the beetle and a mysterious grasshopper will have grave consequences for the philandering husband; as the intertitle silently stresses, "Mr. Beetle should have guessed that the aggressive grasshopper was a movie cameraman."  To say anything more about the plot would do a disservice to my many readers and to the even more numerous anonymous spammers who often pose as my readers, so I'll merely draw your attention to a few non-story highlights from Starewicz's cautionary tale: 1) the insect cabaret scene is to die for; 2) the sequence where the grasshopper films Mr. Beetle wooing his dragonfly lover through a keyhole at the HOTEL d'AMOUR offers up a nice visual commentary on how the beetle has stolen the keys to his mistress' heart while foreshadowing a later revelation in a movie theater in which we learn that "the projectionist is none other than the vengeful cameraman"; 3) the insect love scenes, the stunts involving various kind of insect mayhem and grasshopper bicycle riding, and even the showy set piece where an artist insect paints a canvas with his long arthropod arms are all top notch on the wow, giggle, and combined wow-giggle meters.  A big high five to Tom for bringing this amusing and just generally delightful pre-Battleship Potemkin visual oddity to my grateful but undeserving attention.

Starewicz at work with "the talent"
 
Tom's post
 
Archive.org's link to the film (dug up by Tom)

10 comentarios:

  1. Having read both reviews I just had to watch this. Fantastically odd. Looking forward to sharing it with some Irish short filmmakers.
    Surely a frog at an insect cabaret is an example of the entomological cabaret of doom!

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  2. Glad you took the time to watch that, Séamus. Pretty wild, no? Thanks for the huge laugh regarding the "entomological cabaret of doom"!

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  3. Yeah, that poor frog, how did she get mixed up in that business? She had a good act, though.

    I love the shadows in your final image.

    I thought this choice worked well, too. It was in some ways unique and in others representative of early film. I had not seen it before, but just knew its place in film history. Film history is strange business!

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    Respuestas
    1. The shadows were what clinched that photo selection for me, Tom, but can an early film/entomological cabaret of doom t-shirt peddling idea be far behind? Of course, we'll have to split the profits with Séamus now. Anyway, one of the fun things about your Starewicz choice (other than the choice itself) is seeing how much other Starewicz is out there on disc and in online snippets. That should be fun stuff for me to take a look at at some point along with the Mélies box sets and the early avant-garde cinema box sets Kino put out a while back. Eisenstein was the earliest Russian director whose work I was familiar with before "the grasshopper bicyclist guy."

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    2. I owe my early film education to some of those Kino sets.

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    3. I just gave myself a flimsy pretext to buy or borrow some of those Kino sets in tonight's post. Thanks for providing the late 2012 spark of filmic imagination!

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  4. I must try this one it does sound great I sure it was mention on the story of film programme that ran over here earlier this year ,all the best stu

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    Respuestas
    1. Stu, I'll be watching it again soon over the holidays as soon as I can line up an only semi-willing family member as my cohort/"victim." It's a very rewarding 12 minutes of entertainment, that's for sure!

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  5. I read about this one over at Tom's a little bit ago, and I have to say I'm really intrigued. Your post only increases my interest--must carve out some time soon to watch.

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    Respuestas
    1. Amanda, this would be a fine investment of your 12 minutes as I let on to Stu above. It would also go really well with your own film challenge & exploration project--a sure winner!

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