"You'll come in for a minute but stay for an hour"
It's difficult to judge this four-minute fragment of animation, especially when you know that it was once much more complete, and probably a far greater film. 'The Tale of the Priest and of his Workman Balda' was originally conceived as the first feature-length Soviet animation film, directed by Mikhail Tsekhanovsky and featuring music composed by Dmitriy Shostakovich. Unfortunately, the film was never finished, for two main reasons. In 1936, Shostakovich endured the first official denunciation of his music, leading to the termination of his contract to score the film. In the mid-1930s, the first importation of Disney animation, very distinct in style to that of the Soviets, led to the formation of the Soyuzdetmultfilm Studio (now Soyuzmultfilm), whose artists were forced to create work that mimicked the American style. As the unfinished, near-complete film was lost in a fire during WWII, this brief sequence, titled 'Bazaar (1934),' or 'The Market,' remains the sole surviving remnant of this ambitious Soviet project that came up against difficult times.
The first thing you'll notice about 'Bazaar' is its eccentric animation style, an extension of the animation work that the Soviet Union had developed since the silent era, and containing not a trace of Disney. There's no attempt to evoke realism in the moving images, but rather every character is quite distinctly a completely flat cut-out, and different images interact with each other as though they're part of a moving picture-book. The original film was produced as an opera of sorts, presumably with characters singing every line to the tune of Shostakovich's compositions. This particular sequence depicts a visit to the marketplace, where a host of grotesque store-holders sing about their respective products. It's all very bewildering, and just a little bit creepy, to watch those bizarre, misshapen faces implore you to buy their fish, cucumbers and toys there's even one man who's apparently selling a wife "with no garments and fat thighs." There's definitely nothing Disney about that!
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