World Festival of Animated Film /
28 September to 3 October 2020
World Festival of Animated Film / 28 September to 3 October 2020
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Animated Textology: Strategies of Reading in A. Khrzhanovsky’s Films on Pushkin and Beyond - Mikhail Gurevich (Independent scholar, Evanston, IL, USA)

In recent times, we see a trend, a certain proliferation of ‘textual matter’ on the animated screen, in a variety of fashions/functions, often including introduction of poetry. In this light especially, it’s worth revisiting certain films of Andrei Khrzhanovsky, made in 1970-80s and perhaps largely overlooked internationally then and now (in part, due to difficulties of translation/perception, linguistic and cultural), while they (still) present a rather radical vision and approach and might be informative for today’s practices. The films (trilogy of shorts, subsequently re-edited in feature) were based on Alexander Pushkin’s famous manuscript drawings-sketches – and moreover, on manuscript(s) as such, taken as documentation of creative process, but also as certain ‘aesthetic phenomenon’ in itself (as accepted in both academic and popular national traditions).

The approach to this unconventional material in the films appears to be demonstratively two-fold: on one hand, it’s almost ‘philological’, close to classic ‘textual analysis’; on the other – playful and liberating, unabashedly exploits the ‘manuscript graphics’ in new cinematic ways, actually building the entire (filmic) universe out of its elements. Given the central – and indeed almost sacred – role/position of Pushkin in Russian cultural mythology, that’s exactly what the director (together with extraordinary team of collaborators) has to deal with here, and he undertakes bold de- and reconstruction of the aura of this particular figure and the figure of a Poet in general, along with reflection on status and nature of the poetic word. In doing so, he creates a peculiar ‘image of text’ on the screen, as a symbol and living space of poetry and finds within it elaborate instrumentation of visual reading of the written verse.

Against the backdrop of those more general themes, I’ll focus on several (short) poems presented here in full, as case studies of means of interpreting, in rich interplay of the visuals, voiceover recitation and music score. In addition, I will try to put these examples in parallel with some contemporary exercises of the similar order.

Mikhail Gurevich (Chicago) – Independent scholar and critic, born in Moscow, Russia. Writes on literature, theater and film, focusing on animation, puppetry and experimental theatre and cinema. Since the late 1970s, he has been contributing to major cultural publications in Russia; later edited independent periodicals. Served as expert-consultant for professional associations and institutions in theatre and cinema; as board member and adviser at film/animation studios. From 1992 lives in USA. Wrote on animation, in particular for professional and academic publications. Was a guest lecturer at a number of universities internationally. Participated at many festivals in various capacities; currently affiliated with Blow-up International Film Festival. Also involved in broader cultural studies and journalism, and in documentary film-making.