2 July 2005 | Cineanalyst
Starewicz, Less Remarkable
Wladyslaw Starewicz (Ladislas Starewitch in France) was a genius of early stop-motion puppet animation. His humorous tales involving toys, replicas of insects, frogs and such remain delightful to this day; "The Cameraman's Revenge" is especially amazing for 1912. This, "Christmas Eve", is a live-action film, though. There is some animation and mild special effects. It's amusing in parts, but, overall, it's unremarkable.
The camera-work and film-making are mostly straightforward: a stationary camera without much scene dissection or close shots. Scenes become rather dull as a result. The exceptions are two brief forward, shaking camera movements involving the devil flying. That's innovative film-making; if only he'd built upon it, this film might have went somewhere. It reminds one of the startling camera movements he accomplished in "The Mascot" (1934), which also involved a devil.
Additionally, Ivan Mozzhukhin (Ivan Mosjoukine in France), a star in his day and unrecognizable in the costume, seems to relish his role as the devil. The Gogol story of connected stories is promising material, but this adaptation doesn't appear to be on the right scale for Starewicz. As a film made in 1913, it's okay and has its moments; however, as a film by Starewicz, it's unsatisfactory. "The Cameraman's Revenge" is nearly unbelievable as a film made in the early 1910s; "Christmas Eve", however, is clearly such.