World Festival of Animated Film /
short and feature edition 4 to 9 June 2018
World Festival of Animated Film / short and feature edition 4 to 9 June 2018
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(Un)masking the Human Condition: Nature and Stylistics of ‘Character Animation’ in Igor Kovalyov’s Films – Mikhail Gurevich (independent scholar, USA)

It’s not very easy to recognize, at the first place, that in his extravagant and not-so-transparent, highly stylized narratives, Igor Kovalyov is in fact dealing with good-old character animation – albeit of a quite specific and complex variety. With emphasis on certain ‘dramatization of gags’ and graphic gestures and postures in portraying, here seemingly ‘realistic’ characters as if constantly oscillate between inner and outer perspective, between almost ideographic type-casting, so to speak, with sad-ironic distancing, and introspective psychologising, with metaphysical connotations, beneath that. It might even appear that the very concept of the ‘character’ and modes of presentation are being questioned and problematized – which poses both a challenge and exciting task to read in those ‘tales of solitude’, inhabited by weirdish and touching creatures, the underlying existential tension revealed through them.

From carnivalesque masks in early films to shadowy ‘double exposure’ of the faces in the later ones – such moves, rather persistently employed by Kovalyov, can be taken as a self-revealing metaphor through which we can view and try to interpret his approach and style, especially with regard to the treatment of acting figures in his films – ambivalent, jestering and as though analytical at the same time.

I’ll attempt to trace, even if cursory, the evolution of Kovalyov characters in the progression of his personal and, in part, commercial projects, and their roots in his original graphic artwork where we find characteristic sketchy portraiture in dynamic snapshots with gag-y twists; and to put the constructive principles and the artistic devices involved against the backdrop of different traditions and influences Kovalyov had inherited and experienced.

Mikhail Gurevich, independent scholar and critic, born in Moscow, Russia. Writes on literature, theatre and film, with special interest in animation, puppetry, and experimental theatre and cinema. From late 1970s was contributing to major cultural publications in Russia; later edited independent periodicals. Worked as consultant for professional associations in theatre and cinema; served as board member and as an adviser at Soyuzmultfilm and Pilot animation studios. From 1992 lives in USA. Wrote on animation for ASIFA magazine, festival and academic publications; recently contributed extensively to the history of world animation by Giannalberto Bendazzi. Was a guest lecturer in a number of universities internationally. Participated in many festivals as curator, juror and panellist; lately – in charge of animation selection and jury at Blow-up Film Festival (Chicago). He is also a documentary filmmaker, interpreter and translator.