Starevich, Vladislav (1882–1965) By Leskosky, Richard J.
Pioneering puppet animator Vladislav Starevich was born to Polish parents in political exile in Moscow. He initially filmed ethnographic and entomological subjects for Moscow’s Khanzhonkov studio. In 1910, while unsuccessfully trying to film two male stag beetles fighting over a female (they stopped moving whenever stage lights came on), he realised he could recreate the desired action by manipulating jointed beetle carcasses under the camera one frame at a time. His subsequent puppet films employed realistic insect and other animal puppets in satiric tales that challenged Romantic ideals. Prekrasnaya Lyukanida [Beautiful Leukanida] (1911), a Helen of Troy spoof with beetles, was the first Russian film sold abroad. Mest kinematograficheskogo opertora [The Cameraman’s Revenge] (1911), a tale of marital infidelity, is one of the very first depictions of characters seeing themselves on the screen at a cinema. Starevich directed live-action features as well, but after immigrating to France in 1919, made only puppet films, including the feature Le Roman de Renard [The Tale of the Fox] (1937), a decade-long project. His puppet films were intrinsically surreal; Fétiche mascotte [The Mascot] (1933), which inaugurated a series starring stuffed toy dog Fétiche, also notably displayed Expressionistic elements in its staging and lighting.