Jolly Cinema > 15:30


Nikolaj Chodataev, Ol’ga Chodataeva / Tat’jana Lukaševič

Along with sisters Valentina and Zinaida Brumberg, Olga Petrovna Khodataeva is one of the major figures in Soviet animation. She was born near Rostovon- Don and grew up in Moscow. She and her elder brother Nikolai shared a strong interest in painting and they both enrolled at the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture, graduating in 1918. During the Civil War she worked as a graphic artist and a scenic designer. After establishing an “experimental studio for animation” at the Moscow Film School GTK (later to become VGIK), Nikolai Khodataev came to the attention of the authorities who commissioned a film in support of the Chinese Revolution. This is the famous Kitay v ogne (China in Flames), a medium- length animated film made in 1925, which revolutionised the rules of the genre. Like the Brumberg sisters and others, Olga joined the collective in order to help with the film. At the end of the 1920s, they collaborated on a few modest, poetic wonders, such as Odna iz mnogikh (One of Many, 1927), which mixed live action and animation, Samoyedskii malchik (The Samoyed Boy, 1928), and Grozny Vavila i tetka Arina (Terrible Vavila and Auntie Arina, 1928), a short animated pamphlet to celebrate 8 March and rural women’s emancipation. However, Khodataev’s avant-garde inspiration was hampered after official directives in 1936 established a centralised animation studio, whose watchword was to imitate Walt Disney. Khodataeva chose to persevere despite the restrictions. From 1936 to 1960 she worked for Soyuzmultfilm and made 32 animated films, mainly inspired by folklore from Russia or other Soviet republics. She died in 1968.

Born in 1905, as a teenager Lukashevich was active in the Adelheim Brothers’ troupe that performed throughout Russia. In 1922 she enrolled at the Moscow Film School (GTK, later VGIK) in the ‘acting’ department before moving to ‘direction’. She graduated in 1927, the first year in which the School awarded diplomas, and was therefore part of the 1927 generation formed during the golden age of Soviet cinema, which would later suffer the direct consequences of Stalin’s purges, the campaign against formalism and the war. While many of her classmates threw in the towel (Albert Gendelshtein) or were reported missing in action (Aleksandr Strizhak), she somehow would manage to direct 15 feature films and remain active until the end of the 1960s. From 1927 she worked as an assistant director and then director for Mezhrab-pomfilm. Her first feature, Prestuplenie Ivana Karavaeva (The Crime of Ivan Karavayev, 1929), is a depiction of bureaucracy (which unjustly condemns the protagonist) and its necessary control by the masses (who rehabilitate him). She then directed Vesennie dni (Spring Days, 1934), thought to be lost, in which the critic Glauco Viazzi saw “a sort of poem about life and happiness”. She delighted the public with Gavroche (1937) and especially with Podkidysh (The Foundling, 1939) in which she displayed her talent in directing children. There were 16 million spectators for that story of a little girl lost in the streets of Moscow, and the film continues to be popular (it was recently colourised). After returning to her passion for the theatre with postwar filmed stage performances (Uchitel tantsev, Dance Teacher, 1952; Anna Karenina, 1953), her films about teenagers such as Attestat zrelosti (Certificate of Maturity, 1954) and Slepoy muzykant (The Blind Musician, 1960), again brought her success. Is the invisibilization of women filmmakers the reason why most cinephiles don’t even know the name of Tatyana Lukashevich or is it, in the words of Peter Rollberg, “a sad testimony to the lack of official and critical appreciation for the art of entertaining mass audiences in Soviet cinema?”. A bit of both, no doubt.

Irène Bonnaud and Bernard Eisenschitz




Saturday 29/08/2020


Original version with subtitles


Film Notes

‘Vavila the Terrible’ is a muzhik who beats his wife, ‘Auntie’ Arina, and demands his meal of shchi and kacha (soup and porridge). When he and his friend realise that the women have not only stopped their domestic work to celebrate 8 March but that they also want to pursue education at the workers’ school, these two men understand that they are in big trouble. This short agitfilm created in celebration of the International Working Women’s Day brought together four pioneers of Soviet animation: Nikolai Khodataev and his sister Olga, and the Brumberg sisters, Valentina and Zinaida. The two heroines resemble those in Barnet’s film Dom na Trubnoy (The House on Trubnaya) – the naive Vera Maretskaya with her round face and the militant Ada Vojtsik with her kerchief –, which was produced in the same year by the same studio, Mezhrabpomfilm, the animated film however taking place in the countryside.

Irène Bonnaud and Bernard Eisenschitz        

Cast and Credits

[Terrible Vavila and Auntie Arina]. Scen.: Nikolaj Chodataev, Ol’ga Chodataeva. Scgf.: Valentina, Zinaida Brumberg. Prod.: Mežrabpomfil’m, Centrosojuz. 35mm. Bn.


Film Notes

A loose adaptation of Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables, Gavroche prominently features the novel’s political context and the opposition to the July Monarchy. One feels transported into the work of Honoré Daumier while looking at the posters caricaturing Louis Philippe the Bourgeois-King, known as ‘the pear’ among the people, or standing at the barricade on rue Saint-Denis in June 1832. Although the lavish sets were borrowed from Zori Parizha (Dawn of Paris), Grigori Roshal’s film about the Paris Commune, Tatyana Lukashevich was arguably better at giving them life, and she added a delightful evocation of the Place de la Bastille and its elephant (inhabited with all sort of little creatures, children and mice). The choice of Gavroche as the main character of Les Miserables contrasts with the previous French adaptations and can also be understood in the context of the Spanish Civil War. An embodiment of the lower class – poor, resourceful and heroic – an adolescent goes up on the barricades because his father was murdered in the King’s prison (this martyr of the Republic obviously has little in common with the novel’s Thénardier). Gavroche, like the child in Delacroix’s painting Liberty Leading the People, which had probably inspired Hugo, becomes a revolutionary icon, represented on the screen by the young and unforgettable Nikolay Smorshkov (who would die on the front in 1943, aged 21). It’s a dynamic, lyrical and exciting adventure film that also benefits from the pioneering work that Margarita Barskaya had carried out with children. As in Rvanye bashmaki, touching scenes depict two generations, the protagonist and the five- or six-year-old children he takes under his protection. However, in the beautiful bakery scene, already included by Henri Fescourt in his epic 1925 adaptation, we can see that the little Parisian delinquent is now imbued with the Soviet morality: he no longer steals.

Irène Bonnaud and Bernard Eisenschitz

Cast and Credits

Sog.: freely inspired by Les miserables (1862) by Victor Hugo. Scen.: Georgij Šachovskoj. F.: Evgenij Andrikanis. Scgf.: Iosif Špinel’ Aleksandr Žarenov. Mus.: Jurij Nikol’skij. Int.: Kolja Smorčkov (Gavroš), Dimitrij Popov (Touchet), Ivan Novosel’cev (Enjolras), Nina Zorskaja (Madeleine), Pavel Massal’skij (Montparnasse), Andrej Korablëv (Javert). Prod.: Mosfil’m. 35mm. Bn.