American Imperialists (Animated Soviet Propaganda)

Ακολουθούν οι επεξηγηματικές σημειώσεις του άλπουμ στα αγγλικά όπως

το βρίσκει κανείς στο πρώτο δίσκο με τίτλο American Imperialist και αμέσως μετά όλα τα animation:


• Black and White
• Mister Twister
• Someone Else’ s V oice
• A ve Maria
• The Millionaire
• Shooting Range
• Mr. Wolf


1. Black and White, 1933, directed by I. Ivanov-Vano and L. Amalrik. Mezrabpomfilm.
Based on “Black and White,” a poem by Vladimir Mayakovsky. Mayakovsky is often called the loudspeaker of the Bolshevik Revolution. Yet he was also a most talented poet, whose works are widely quoted even today. As a graphic artist, he was one of the founders of the Okna Rosta (Rosta Windows) a massive media publicity blitz which used posters to spread word of the Revolution via the Russian telegraphic agency.
The animation in “Black and White” is based on his drawings.
In 1922, Mayakovsky received special permission to travel to America. En route he stopped in Cuba where Americans controlled the sugar and tobacco industries. “Black and White” tells the story of Willie, the shoe shine boy, who makes the fatal mistake of asking the White Sugar King Mister Bragg, “Why should white sugar be made by a black man?”
Only fragments of the film were found, without restorable sound. It was decided to underscore the fragments with excerpts from “Sometimes I feel like a Motherless Child,” recorded by Paul Robeson in 1949 at the Tchaikovsky Theatre in Moscow. The son of an American slave, Robeson was an athlete, actor, singer, cultural scholar, author, and political activist. He spoke fluent Russian. Although he never officially joined the Communist party, he supported the USSR politically which brought him to the attention of the House Un-American Activities Committee, and ultimately probably cost him his American career. In 1952 Robeson was awarded the Stalin Peace Prize. He translated the Soviet national anthem into English. His rendition, also recorded in Moscow in 1949, underscores the end credits of this episode.
Oleg Vidov (actor/producer): “The Soviet propaganda machine glorified Robeson almost as an achievement of the International Revolution. But for the Soviet people who attended his concerts or heard him on radio, he was a good friend from America, the country which helped us to defeat the Nazis. During a time of oppression and Stalin terror, here came this good-spirited, free person from the United States. Unlike us, he could travel freely and bring us songs in English. He also taught us to sing ‘Ole Man River’ in Russian.
Total Running time: 2:27 min.


2. Mister Twister, 1963, A. Karanovitch, Soyuzmultfilm Studio.
Based on the popular children’s poem written in 1933 by Samuel Marshak who is also credited with writing the script, “Mister Twister” tells the story of a wealthy American who travels with his family to Leningrad for a vacation. When he learns there are “guests of color” at the Angleterre hotel, he cancels his reservation. The concierge calls ahead to all other hotels in Leningrad and advises them not to give the American racist and his family a room. Mr. Twister returns to the Angleterre, and after spending the night in the lobby decides he has overcomes his prejudices. During the USSR school children regularly memorized the Marshak poem.
Sonia Marshak. M.D. (Scientist): My great grandfather was a poet, satirist, and outstanding translator of English literature — Shakespeare, Burns, Keats, Blake, Wordsworth, and Kipling among others. He founded, in 1920, one of the first children’s theaters in the Soviet Union, and wrote plays for it. Highly effective in persuading gifted writers and artists to write for children, he also headed the Children’s Section of the State Publishing house. During the years of the Stalin terror, the Section came under attack for its alleged bourgeois leanings. Members the group were accused of being associated with “Samuel Marshak, Enemy of the People.” They were interrogated, killed, and sent to labor camps in Siberia and the Arctic.
Julian Lowenfeld (translator): The animated film, made in the 60s, differs from the original poem, written in the 30s, in several curious ways. First of all, in the original poem, little Susan announces:
I’m going to eat nothing but caviar black, And catch real live sturgeons in handfuls! On the banks of the Volga
I’ll ride in a troika
I’ll run round collective farms
With nothing but raspberries heaped in my arms!
Although Marshak is credited with the screenplay, we do not know why Susie’s motives for visiting Russia were omitted from the film. Did the censors in Brezhnev’s “era of stagnation” feel that an American millionaire’s daughter supposedly wanting to visit the Soviet Union to pick raspberries at a collective farm sound so absurd it would seem satirical?
Another curious twist to the Mr. Twister Film is the behavior of the concierge of the Angleterre. In the film, he plays an active part in teaching Mr. Twister a lesson about proletarian solidarity and the costs of intolerance, by phoning all the other hotels in town and telling them not to give Mr. Twister a room (even though rooms are available). But in the original poem, the concierge does no such thing–rooms truly are unavailable anywhere else, because Leningrad is full of foreign tourists in town for
an international congress.
Total Running time: 15:33 min.


3. Someone Else’s Voice. 1949. I. Ivanov-Vano. Soyuzmultfilm.
Written by Sergei Mihalkov, a popular children’s poet who also wrote the lyrics to the Soviet National Anthem. Jazz was an early victim of the Cold War, condemned as “an enemy of the people.” In this film for children, a Soviet bird returns home from abroad and gives a concert. When she sings jazz, a new kind of music she learned on her travels, the Soviet birds boo and hiss and drive her from the forest.
Note: Whatever the official policy, jazz was popular in the USSR and was used in the score of many later films in this series.
Total running time: 9:23 min.

4. Ave Maria, 1972, I. Ivanov-Vano. Soyuzmultfilm.
Also known as “Against American Aggression in Vietnam,” this film is as anti-war as anti-American and portrays the Church as an actively malignant social influence. Underscored by Schubert’s “Ave Maria.” Ivanov-Vano, who worked as an animator on some of the animation films made in the 20s such as “China in Flames,” went on to become the USSR’s foremost director of animated films for children.
Vladimir Paperny (writer and cultural historian): I think that propaganda goals of the 70s and the 30s and the 40s were quite different. In the 40s and the 30s, and even before, the idea was to project the Soviet Union as a very powerful, very invincible warrior, something that doesn’t compromise and just fights to the very end, something very menacing, aggressive and something that everybody should fear. In the 70s, the Soviet Union was presented as the defender of humanitarian values, as a fortress of the
fight against barbarism. You can see it in “Ave Maria.” The sound track is Schubert’s “Ave Maria,” a religious song, and the imagery is icons, paintings of the Madonna with a child. The official Soviet ideology was atheism and despite this, those religious images were supposed to present the Soviet Union as the new defender of humanity and humanitarian bounds.
Total Running time: 9:34 min.


5. The Millionaire, 1963, V. Bordzilovsky and Y. Prytkov, Soyuzmultfilm.
Also based on a poem for children by Sergei Mihalkov. A rich American woman leaves a million dollars to her beloved bulldog. The theme is that in America, money can buy anything; the bulldog becomes rich and powerful and eventually a member of the U.S. Congress.
Total running time: 9:57 min.


6. Shooting Range, 1979, V. Tarasov. Soyuzmultfilm.
Based on a play by V. Slatkin. An unemployed American gets a job in a shooting gallery as a live target; the greedy capitalist owner charges patrons double for the chance to shoot at a human being. Tarasov, a fan of J.D. Salinger’s “The Catcher in the Rye,” modeled the film’s hero on Holden Caulfield. An artist as well as an animation director, Tarasov combed through back issues of “America,” a magazine published by the U.S. government during the Cold War, and American comic books, to lovingly create the film’s fabulous New York City back drop. The attention to detail is amazing (and sometimes off base), from the graffiti on the buildings to the brand name on the back of the hero’s tennis shoes.
Total running time: 19:14 min.


7. Mr. Wolf, 1949, directed by V. Gromov. Soyuzmultfilm.
Based on the drawings of renowned political caricaturist Boris Yefimov who is interviewed in Part 4 of this series. A wealthy American retires with his family to the “Island of Peace.” All is well until oil is discovered and greed trumps Mr. Wolf’s peaceful attitudes. In the end the U.S. military arrives to protect Mr. Wolf’s private island and his oil.
Total Running time: 10:04 min.


OVERVIEW COMMENTATRS:
• Igor Kokarev, Professor of Film Sociology, Russian State Film
School
• Vladimir Tarasov, director/ artist “Shooting Gallery”
• Dr. Sofia Marshak, PhD, great-granddaughter of children’s poet
Samuel Marshak

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