Mest Kinematograficheskogo Operatora (1912) (aka The Cameraman’s Revenge)
If a list of forgotten pioneers of cinema is to be made, it is highly likely that Wladyslaw Starewicz tops that list. Few filmmakers seem to have come close to him as far as understanding the animation medium is concerned (Cohl and Disney are the only ones that come to mind). Starewicz began his career stuffing dead insects and animating them by traditional puppetry or stop motion photography and then moved on to make (more humane, but less magical) movies employing puppets and toys. His short film, The Cameraman’s Revenge (1912), arguably his masterpiece, presents us Mr. And Mrs. Beetle, the former of whom goes away on a trip only to involve himself in an affair with a pretty dragonfly. Mr. Grasshopper, the jilted boyfriend of the dragonfly and a movie maker by profession, plans revenge. When Mr. Beetle returns home to discover his wife having an affair, he is infuriated and erupts. To patch up things, he takes his wife to the local cinema hall where a big surprise awaits him. Hilarious, groundbreaking and profound all at once, The Cameraman’s Revenge, like Brakhage’s Mothlight (1963), stands as a testimony to the power of cinema (animation cinema, in particular) to resurrect and immortalize the dead. No one can deny that there is some sinister charm is witnessing these bugs, which have bit the dust ages ago, come to life once more to perform for generations to come. Starewicz’s sense of slapstick is pitch perfect here (as always, even when he was merely illustrating moral tales later in his career) and the film can well be placed alongside the best of Chaplin. But more than anything, The Cameraman’s Revenge is a bewitching (and the first ever?) acknowledgment of our tendency to believe that photography is indeed truth and cinema, truth 24 times per second.