Thursday, 15 October 2009

Valentin Karavayev "Mumu" (1987)

Lovers of a good story will surely fall for Mumu (and Part 2). Gerasim is a giant, mute porter whose passion is for the faded beauty, Tatiana. Unfortunately the tyrannical widow for whom he works forces the woman to marry the drunkard Kapiton Klimov in the mistaken belief that she would achieve his redemption. No such transformation occurs and she is sent off to distant lands, leaving Gerasim broken hearted. He finds consolation when he saves the puppy Mumu from drowning and forges a relationship to fill the void left by Tatiana. When the widow takes an initial shine to the puppy, the brute promptly bites her and Gerasim suffers another loss. Based on Ivan Turgenev's story, this is masterly stuff from director Valentin Karavayev. He uses cut-outs and all the considerable resources of the Soyuzmultfilm studio whose work fascinates me. The studio connection guarantees exquisitely drawn images from a veritable army of artists and animators, plus blissful music from Alexander Mikhailovich Raskatov. For the Soviets, a tale of a domestic dictator who shows no redeeming features is as much manna as Mumu; for the rest of us it shows a studio at the height of its powers, a golden age of animation the like of which we shall see no more. There are so many scenes to relish - where the whole house is agitated because the mistress has had a sleepless night, or Gerasim floating off into the gloom. I could equally enthuse about the atmospheric backgrounds. Maybe I'll just revel in the consummate use of cut-outs.

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