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Archive for December 1st, 2010

By Bob Clark

In a little less than a year, we will see the twentieth anniversary of Peter Chung’s Aeon Flux, which debuted in a brief but potent form on the MTV animation anthology series, Liquid Television. Though he was able to parlay that short into a series of its own that won a cult following and critical acclaim that has far outlasted its short lifespan, his career since the days of Aeon and Trevor’s folie-a-deux has been less than inspiring, to say the least. Aside from a few impressive shorts done in conjunction with various movie franchises (Chronicles of Riddick, Tomb Raider and the Animatrix project, where his piece Matriculated easily outshone the rest of the anime short-subjects, and even the sequel films themselves), Chung’s creative output has been largely that of a character designer, with work ranging from the prestige (a futuristic, gender-bending Alexander the Great anime by Rintaro that puts Oliver Stone to shame) to the pathetic (a sci-fi retake on Lee Falk’s The Phantom). With new opportunities for his distinctively avant-garde animation dwindling and the future of the Aeon Flux franchise all but ruined by the Charlize Theron-vehicle that bore its name, each passing year it’s seemed less likely that we would see him make a grand re-entrance back onto the world stage of cutting-edge cartoons. That waiting has suddenly, perhaps abruptly, come to an end– now the question is whether or not that test of our patience has been worth it.

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(USSR 1971 10 min)

Directors Yuri Norstein, Ivan Ivanov-Vano; Writer Ivan Ivanov-Vano; Animators Yuri Norstein, Aleksandr Rozhkov, Boris Savin, Vyacheslav Shilobreev

by Stephen Russell-Gebbett
The Battle of Kerzhenets is a singular film. It brings frescoes and icons down from the walls, where they are only touched by candle-light, to enact an earth-shattering and gory battle. You can feel the life-blood of these soldiers seeping away with the red.

The Battle of Kerzhenets uses the sacred images of the Russian Othordox Church from the fourteenth to sixteenth centuries to conjure up a brilliantly vibrant and mythical struggle joined at the river Kerzhenets, a tributary of the Volga. The icons are glowing and golden, sombre and rejoicing. The screen is set ablaze. They seamlessly complement this wordless tale of hope, of death and rebirth, their bowed demeanours speaking volumes of obedience and muscular faith. The two co-directors use sheets of glass, moving painted or cutout figures across and between the planes. To see such fine traditional art articulated and transposed into a new dimension is a revelation.

The Battle of Kerzhenets is inspired by the Rimsky-Korsakov opera The Legend of the Invisible City of Kitezh and the Maiden Fevroniya. It is Rimsky-Korsakov’s Battle of Kerzhenets from that work, written in 1907, that accompanies the staggering sight of Russian forces set against Mongol. The opera is based on the legends of Kitezh, a town which became invisible to Tatar invaders, and that of the maiden St Fevroniya of Murom.

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