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Director: Vladimir Pekar
Release Date: 1971
Rating: ★★
Review:

The Adventures of the Young PioneersIt seems that in the early 1970s Soviet Propaganda took a rather retrograde course, being more overtly propagandistic and using images that went all the way back to the 1920s.

Films with a peaceful message, like ‘Proud Little Ship‘ (1966) or ‘We Can Do It‘ (1970) were interchanged for self-important glorifications of the Soviet Union, and its ‘heroic’ history. This period produced some of the most terrible propaganda films ever made. ‘The Adventures of the Young Pioneers’ is a prime example.

The film plays during World War Two, Russia’s Great War. When their village is occupied by some goofy Nazi Germans, three communist children decide to withstand their occupants. They are betrayed by a collaborator, however, and captured when raising a red flag. Luckily, they are saved by the red army.

This children’s film uses ugly designs and very old-fashioned looking caricatures of Nazis, while the children and especially the red army are drawn quite heroically. The result is as unappealing and unfunny as it is sickeningly propagandistic.

Watch ‘The Adventures of the Young Pioneers’ yourself and tell me what you think:

http://www.fandor.com/films/the_adventures_of_the_young_pioneers

‘The Adventures of the Young Pioneers’ is available on the DVD box set ‘Animated Soviet Propaganda’

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Director: Jan Švankmajer
Release Date: 1971
Rating: ★★★★★ ♕
Review:

Jabberwocky © Jan Svankmajer‘Jabberwocky’ has little to do with the poem from Lewis Carroll’s ‘Through The Looking Glass’, although we hear it being recited by a little girl during the opening sequence.

The film it is Švankmajer’s surrealistic masterpiece on the loss of childhood, depicted by several episodes, which are separated by a box of bricks, a labyrinth and a black cat crushing the box of bricks.

During the episodes we are treated on extremely surrealistic images of very active inanimate objects in a child’s room. First we watch a boy’s suit growing a forest in his room, defying both time and authority (symbolized by the portrait in the room). Then we watch large cannibalistic dolls grinding, ironing and eating little dolls, a china baby in a cradle destroying two tin armies, a pocket knife performing acrobatic tricks until it makes an ill-fated fall and stabs itself, and finally, schoolbooks producing paper boats and planes, which fly out of the window, while the father’s portrait produces pictures of beautiful women.

This last episode shows the child’s changing interests. In the end the labyrinth is solved, the cat – the only living thing in the entire film – is caged, and the boy’s suit is replaced by an adult one. The boy is free from his parent, but the days of imagination are over, the fantasy is gone.

For this film Švankmajer makes excellent use of 19th century imagery (sailor suit, vintage dolls and toys) to create a completely unique world. It’s the film maker’s most typical film, partly expanding on ideas explored in ‘Historia Naturae, Suita‘ (1967), and showing his fascination with fantasy, cruelty and decay, which roam freely in the child’s self-contained room. The rather morbid behavior of the everyday objects is quite unsettling and it shows how a child’s fantasy can be both imaginative and cruel.

‘Jabberwocky’ is without doubt one of Švankmajer’s most powerful films. He would only top it eleven years later, with ‘Dimensions of a Dialogue‘ (1982). Švankmajer would explore the imagination of children further in the moving ‘Down to the Cellar‘ (1983), and in his unique adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s most famous work ‘Alice‘ (1987).

Watch ‘Jabberwocky’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Jabberwocky’ is available on the DVD ‘Jan Svankmajer – The Complete Short Films’

Director: Inessa Kovalevskaya
Release Date: 1971
Rating: ★
Review:

Songs of the Years of Fire © SoyuzmultfilmOne could see ‘Songs of the Years of Fire’ as the Soviet answer to ‘Fantasia’.

This propaganda film features songs from the Russian civil war (1917-1922). These songs are accompanied by revolutionary and shamelessly patriotic images of the brave soviet army, to which the film is dedicated.

The resulting film is as graphically interesting as it is boring and sickening. It’s hard to believe such blatant propaganda could be made as late as 1971.

‘Songs of the Years of Fire’ is available on the DVD box set ‘Animated Soviet Propaganda’

Director: Raoul Servais
Release Date: 1971
Rating: ★★½
Review:

Operation X-70 © Raoul ServaisOperation X-70 is a half silly, half scary short by Belgian film maker Raoul Servais.

It tells about a poisonous gas, which turns people into spiritual beings. The gas is advertised as a ‘clean weapon’, because it doesn’t kill people. When the gas is accidentally bombed on the Benelux (Belgium, Holland and Luxemburg), it turns people into angels.

The film impresses with its weird idea, its dark and gloomy atmosphere, and its anti-war message. However, like Raoul Servais’s earlier film ‘Goldframe’ (1968), the film suffers from an all too present dialogue. In the end the short’s images are more lasting than the film itself is.

Watch ‘Operation X-70’ yourself and tell me what you think:

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