11 February 2012

Kawamoto – Norstein: The Puppet Master and the Painter-Animator

Kawamoto – Norstein: The Puppet Master and the Painter-Animator
Forum des images, Paris
23-25 March 2012

Last month, I learned from ZewebAnim that the Forum des images was putting together a tribute to the friendship between the late puppet animator Kihachirō Kawamoto (1925-2010) and his friend and colleague, the great Russian animator Yuri Norstein (b. 1941).  I am planning on attending this event.

Kawamoto– Norstein: The Puppet Master and the Painter-Animator has been coordinated by Forum des images programmer Isabelle Vanini and Japanese animation expert Ilan Nguyen (Tokyo University of the Arts).  Yuri Norstein will be in attendance at many of the events and will discuss his craft as an artist as well as his unique relationship with Japan.  In Nguyen’s introduction to the programme, he quotes Norstein as saying that attending the event will be “a double pleasure because it is for my friend Kawamoto Kihachirō, a man with whom I could communicate without being aware of language barriers.”

Kawamoto himself had actually been to the Forum des images on three occasions (1999, 2003, 2005) as part of their festival Nouvelles images du Japon (New images of Japan).  Although Kawamoto’s works appear on the surface as being very “Japanese”, he actually was inspired by animation from around the world – particularly that of Czech puppet animator Jiří Trnka, whom he visited in Prague in 1963.  I write about this in a chapter on Kawamoto in the forthcoming book Directory of World Cinema: Japan 2 (Intellect Books, ed. John Berra, 2012). Available for pre-order:

Kawamoto was very active in the animation community.  His works won awards around the world including the Noburo Ofuji Award (6 times!), the prestigious Winsor McCay Award 1988), and he was the winner of the very first ASIFA Prize in 1985.  Kawamoto was also president of the Japanese Animation Association (JAA) from 1988 until 2010 (the first president was Osamu Tezuka, the current president is Taku Furukawa).

The indisputable master of puppet animation in Japan, this event will showcase most of Kawamoto’s directorial oeuvre, except for that rare film Rennyo and his Mother (蓮如とその母, 1981) and Restaurant of Many Orders (注文の多い料理店, 1991), which Kawamoto completed for his friend Tadanari Okamoto when he died of cancer.  Briar Rose, or The Sleeping Beauty (いばら姫またはねむり姫, 1990) is also not on the programme, but as this film is widely available on DVD this is no great loss.

Other rare treats on the programme include Tadanari Mochinaga’s Little Black Sambo and the Twin Brothers (1958), which features puppets made by Kawamoto.  This was one of the last short films Mochinaga made before establishing MOM Productions in 1961 and doing the puppet animation for Rankin/Bass.  In addition to screening all of Norstein’s major works, the programme features works that Norstein worked on as an animator or co-director such as Roman Kachanov’s The Mitten (1967) and Ivan Ivanov-Vano’s  Seasons (1969).  

It is a must-see event for all fans of animation.  I look forward to dusting off my rusty French and seeing some of my French readers there!

I have translated the main details of the programme into English - minus the film descriptions and with the addition of a few editorial comments of my own.  All films will have their original soundtracks and French subtitles.  I have put links to Nishikata Film reviews when available.  More details and ticket information here (FR only).

23 March 2012 - 20:00

Opening Night: Kawamoto – Norstein: The Puppet Master and the Painter-Animator
Soirée d’ouverture « Kawamoto - Norstein, le marionnettiste et le peintre-animateur »
Special Guest : Yuri Norstein

Self Portrait (セルフポートレート, Kawamoto, 1988, 1’)
Autoportrait de Kawamoto Kihachirô (1988, 1min) 

Winter Days (Kawamoto, et al., 2003, 65’, 35mm)
Jours d’hiver (Fuyu no hi) de Kawamoto Kihachirô, et al. 

The Poets of Winter Days (Toshikatsu Wada, 2003, 65’, 35mm)
Les Poètes de Jours d’hiver (‘Fuyu no hi’ no shijin-tachi)

24 March 2012 – 14:30

The Art of Puppet Animation: A Programme of Short Films by Kihachirō Kawamoto

"L’art des marionnettes animées" Programme de courts métrages de Kawamoto Kihachirô

Inspired by Japanese puppet traditions, these films adapt literary and theatrical classics and have won awards at major festivals around the world.


The Demon (, Kawamoto, 1972, 8’, 35mm)

Démone (La) l Oni l de Kawamoto  Kihachirô

Dōjōji Temple (
道成寺, Kawamoto, 1976, 19’, 35mm)

Temple Dojoji (Le) l Dôjôji l de Kawamoto  Kihachirô

House of Flame (
火宅, Kawamoto, 1979, 19’, 35mm)

Maison en flammes (La) l Kataku l de Kawamoto  Kihachirô

To Shoot without Shooting (不射之射, Kawamoto, 1988, 25’, 35mm)

Tirer sans tirer l Fusha no sha l de Kawamoto  Kihachirô

24 March 2012 – 16:30

"The Major Works": Programme of Short Films by Yuri Norstein
« Les travaux majeurs » Programme de courts métrages de Youri Norstein
Special Guest: Yuri Norstein

The Heron and the Crane (Цапля и журавль, Norstein, USSR, 1974, 10’, 35mm)

Héron et la cigogne (Le) l Tsaplia i juravl l de Youri  Norstein

The Hedgehog in the Fog (
Ёжик в тумане, Norstein, USSR, 1974, 10’, 35mm)

Hérisson dans le brouillard (Le) l Lojik v toumane l de Youri  Norstein

Tale of Tales (
Сказка сказок, Norstein, USSR, 26’, 1979, 35mm)

Conte des contes (Le) l Skazka skazok l de Youri  Norstein

The Overcoat ((
Шинель, Norstein, 1980, 30’, black and white, video)

Manteau (Le) l Shinel’ l de Youri  Norstein

For more than 30 years, Norstein and his wife Franceska Yarbousova have been working on an adaptation of Nikolai Gogol’s The Overcoat.  30 minutes of this unfinished film will be screened. 

24 March 2012 – 19:00

An Evening with Yuri Norstein, hosted by Ilan Nguyen and Isabelle Vanini

Rencontre avec Youri Norstein animée par Ilan NGuyên et Isabelle Vanini

Introduced to Japan in the early 1980s, the œuvre of Yuri Norstein attracted an unparalleled level of critical acclaim in that country.  Over the years, he has been a frequent guest to Japan with the Norstein Prize for animation being handed out semi-annually at the Laputa International Animation Festival in Tokyo as well as various books and exhibitions devoted to his life’s work.

This special event will be include the presentation of a number of documents and is advertised as an opportunity to better understand this singular filmmaker through the prism of his relationship with Japan.

24 March 2012 – 21:00

Book of the Dead (死者の書 , 2005, 70’, 35mm)

Livre du mort (Le) l Shisha no sho l de Kawamoto  Kihachirô

25 March 2012 – 14:30

"Early works and collaborations": Programme of Short Films by Yuri Norstein
«Les débuts et les collaborations» Programme de courts métrages de Youri Norstein
Special Guest: Yuri Norstein


The Mitten (Варежка, Roman Kachanov, USSR, 1967, 10’, 35mm)

Moufle (La) l Varezhka l de Roman Katchanov coanimé par Youri Norstein 

25th October, the First Day (25-е — первый день, Norstein/Arkadiy Tyuin, USSR, 1968, 35mm)

25 octobre - premier jour l 25-e - pervyi den’ l de Youri  Norstein


The Battle of Kerzhenets (Се́ча при Ке́рженце, Ivan Ivanov-Vano/Norstein, USSR, 1971, 10’, 35mm)

Bataille de Kerjenets (La) l Secja pri Kerjenetz l de Youri Norstein et Ivan Ivanov-Vano 

Seasons (Времена года, Ivan Ivanov-Vano, USSR, 1969, 9’, 35mm)

Saisons (Les) l Vremena goda l d’ Ivan Ivanov-Vano / codirigé et animé par Youri Norstein 


The Fox and the Hare (Лиса и заяц, Norstein, USSR, 1973, 10’, video)

Renarde et le lièvre (La) l Lisa i zayets l de Youri  Norstein


38 Parrots (38 Попугаевые, Ivan Ufimetsev, USSR, 1976, 8’ video)

38 perroquets l 38 popugaev l D’Ivan Ufimtsev / animé par Youri Norstein


Autumn (excerpt) (Andrei Khrjanovsky, USSR, 1992, 8’, video)

Automne (extrait) l Osen’ l d’ Andreï Khrjanovski / animé par Youri Norstein  Khrjanovski

25 March 2012 – 16:30

The Oeuvre of Kihachirō Kawamoto: A Lecture by Ilan Nguyen and Serge Ségura

L’oeuvre de Kawamoto Kihachirô: Conférence d'Ilan NGuyên et Serge Ségura

Special Guest: Yuri Norstein


Illustrated by previously unpublished documents, photographs and film excerpts, this lecture aims to present a wide overview of Kawamoto’s life’s work.  From his debut as an animator to the 2007 opening of the Iida City Kawamoto Kihachirō Puppet Museum in southern Nagano Prefecture, the presentation will include information about his little known work included illustrated books, commercial work, theatrical puppet shows, and more. 

25 March 2012 – 19:30


Living with Puppets (Takashi Namiki, documentary, 1999, 52’, video)

Une vie avec les marionnettes l Ningyô to ikiru l de Namiki  Takashi

This rare documentary was made by Takashi Namiki of Anido, who has made it his life’s work to document the animation history of Japan.  This film is about the Kawamoto + Okamoto Puppet Anime-Shows which were designed by Kawamoto and his friend and colleague Tadanari Okamoto as a showcase for their unique puppet films.

25 March 2012 – 21:00

"Puppets and Other Techniques": A Programme of Short Films by Kihachirō Kawamoto
« Marionnettes et autres techniques » Programme de courts métrages de Kawamoto Kihachirô

Little Black Sambo and the Twins  (ちびくろさんぼとふたごのおとうと, Tadahito Mochinaga, 1957, 17’, video)

Chibikuro Sambo et les deux jumeaux l Chibikuro Sanbo to futago no otôto l de Mochinaga  Tadahito


The sequel to Mochinaga’s Little Black Sambo (ちびくろさんぼのとらたいじ, 1956) sees Sambo rescuing his twin younger brothers from a vulture.  The puppets for this film were designed and handmade by Kawamoto.

Anthropo-Cynical Farce (犬儒戯画, Kawamoto, 1970, 8’, 35mm)

Farce anthropo-cynique l Kenju giga l de Kawamoto  Kihachirô

cutout animation /puppet animation

Travel (, Kawamoto, 1973, 12’, 35mm) 

Voyage (Le) l Tabi l de Kawamoto  Kihachirô

cutout animation

A Poet’s Life (詩人の生涯, Kawamoto, 1974, 19’, 35mm)

Vie d'un poète (la) l Shijin no shôgai l de Kawamoto  Kihachirô

cutout animation

The Breaking of Branches is Forbidden (花折り, Kawamoto, 1968, 14’, 35mm)

Ne cassez pas les branches l Hanaori l de Kawamoto  Kihachirô

puppet animation