The Spirit Of Genius: Feodor Khitruk
A Fascinating Peak
Otto Alder uses many clips from Khitruk's films throughout the documentary, sometimes to express information about artistic matters or societal events. If one does not know the films as a whole, it would be hard to get an idea of their individual structure or meaning. For example, when Khitruk visited the Disney Studios in Hollywood, Woolie Reitherman told him that he thought Khitruk's version of Winnie the Pooh was better than the Disney version -- but we would not be able to judge whether that were true from the excerpts in this documentary. Ideally, the documentary should be distributed (as the National Film Board of Canada did with Norman McLaren's Creative Process) in a two-tape set, with one containing a selection of complete Khitruk films.
In addition to Khitruk's own work, the film contains generous excerpts from a spectacular 1929 film Post, animated by Mikhail Tzekhanovsky in the sleek dynamic style of the soviet Constructivist art movement. The closing sequence, in which Khitruk pays a visit to Yuri Norstein, contains a few priceless minutes of Norstein's legendary unfinished The Overcoat, as well as a close look at the jointed cut-out figures with which Norstein works. Khitruk played a key role in protecting and furthering Norstein's work during the gloomier soviet times, and Norstein's fond warmth for Khitruk is evident in their visit. Norstein reads from some of the witty Pushkin sketches which he had animated for Khrzanovsky's film, and he excuses his own tardiness in finishing The Overcoat with a marvelously appropriate joke: "A man in an asylum was writing a letter. Someone asked to whom it was addressed. `Myself,' he replied. `What is it about?,' the other man asked. `I don't know, I haven't received it yet,' the writer replied." When Khitruk takes his leave of Norstein in front of his snowy Moscow studio, Alder appropriately recalls the wintery sequence from Norstein's Tale Of Tales in which the boy remembers his father trudging through the snow. The father in Tale Of Tales, however, seems rather stern and mean, while Khitruk (and Norstein) seems rather like the personification of goodness.
To obtain a copy of The Spirit of Genius, contact: Tag/Traum. Cornelia Volmer. Weyerstr. 88. D-50676 Cologne, Germany. Tel.: +49 221 235933 Fax: +49 221 233894 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
William Moritz teaches film and animation history at the California Institute of the Arts.
A Fascinating Peak