Wish Upon a Starewicz

Researching NATAN in the Gaumont-Pathe Archive, I learned that any late 1920s or early 30s documentary footage that was more stunningly framed than absolutely necessary was likely to be the work of Pierre Chenal. He made lots of little documentary subjects that the IMDb doesn’t know about yet. PARIS CINEMA is one, and it’s notable for a ton of invaluable making-of footage and behind-the-scenes tomfoolery in the major studios and labs of Paris, circa 1929.

Most exciting of all for auteurists and overgrown, morbid schoolboys, is the visit to the workshop of Ladislas Starewicz, master animator, who was based in the City of Light at that time. As with Jan Svankmajer, his place of business is a cross between Aladdin’s Cave, Lilliput and a Natural History Museum for toys. Or a flea market and an alchemist’s laboratory. Wallow in it!

Incidentally, I can’t locate the Starewicz productions mentioned here on his list of IMDb credits either — lost films, neglected ones, or abandoned projects?


Starewicz with his daughter and star, Nina Star.

11 Responses to “Wish Upon a Starewicz”

  1. What a lovely by-product of the Natan research. I would love to see some kind of film on Starewicz….. *lightbulb*

  2. Speaking of Pierre Chenal. . .

  3. I have that movie… must watch it. Starewicz must have heirs, somebody we could talk to about copyright, and he’s certainly had an influence (on Fantastic Mr Fox as much as anything). It could be good…

  4. The most recent distributors I can find for it are Les Acacias Cinéaudience (it had a theatrical re-release in 1990! I wish I had seen that!)

  5. (By ‘it’ I mean Roman de Renard, by the way).

  6. We could start by finding whoever’s released some Starewicz on DVD — has the BFI done so? If it all turns out to be owned by the same person, that’d be great, but given the peripatetic nature of his career, that seems implausible…

  7. BFI would probably be a place to start.

  8. Chenal’s NATIVE SON played at this year’s Noir City, with interesting news from Eddie Muller about an uncut 16mm version discovered in Buenos Aires. (By the same guy who found the 16mm METROPOLIS a couple of years ago.) Fascinating film, and impossible to have been made in Hollywood at the time, when Jim Crow laws still ruled America. Apparently MGM wanted to make it with an all white cast! Can’t imagine why Richard Wright said no to that. Also interesting to read elsewhere on the net that the film was shot in Argentina rather than in France because the US State Department leaned on the French government. It still uses a couple of French actors who attempt American accents. I believe some of the Argentinian cast are overdubbed.

  9. What a fascinating thing. I really mist watch it and possibly write it up for The Forgotten.

  10. I forgot to mention that Richard Wright plays the protagonist of NATIVE SON himself. He’s not a great actor, but who knows the character better than him?

  11. Jules Dassin cast the screenwriter of Up Tight in the lead role. Somebody dropped out, and he was available…

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