May 5, 2014 posted by

“Cosmic Voyage” (1936) at the SFSFF


Heads up, West Coasters! This year’s cinematic festivities at the The San Francisco Silent Film Festival are right around the corner. The festival, which has screened over 150 silent films and published more than 150 essays by local and international historians, will be holding its screenings of early film rarities from Thursday, May 29th thru Sunday, June 1st. Fittingly, the festival tends to include some animation.

On the subject of animation, my friends at the SFSFF have alerted me that a rare Russian film, Cosmic Voyage (1936), which includes stop-motion animation, is to be screened at the festival on Friday, May 30th at 10PM. I’ll admit that I hadn’t known much about this film prior to learning about this screening.

So what is Cosmic Voyage all about, anyway? Director Vasilii Zhuravliov, in conjunction with live actors and situations, built miniature sets for a big budget project that had complete backing from the Communist Youth League. It’s a latter-silent Trip to the Moon, complete with very sound scientific input: rocket scientist Konstantin Tsiolkovsky was brought in as a technical consultant during production.

I’m told that the sequences specifically featuring stop-motion animation are what caused the film to be banned at one point. The miniature space travelers bouncing up and down on the moon’s surface brought criticism to the work; a label of anti-social realism.

Here’s a modern-day trailer for the film with reworked original footage. At 0:48 and 1:20, you can see brief examples of the sequences utilizing stop-motion animation:

I’m on the other end of the country and won’t be making the festival in person, so I’m sad to miss this. If any readers attend, do report back and let us know what you thought of the film!

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