Monday, March 06, 2006

ANIMATION: Badger and Tale of Tales

Although my favorite—Badger—did not win the Academy Award for best animated short, I am mollified by Doug Cummings' filmjourney.org linkage to where Badger can be viewed in its entirety:

http://www.beam.tv/beamreels/beamreel.php?RjjrhXnjZp

I'm also grateful to Doug for his informed profile of Russian animator Yuri Norstein whose piece—Hedgehog in the Fog—won my heart at Jonathan Marlow's recent Yerba Buena fare Cabinet of Curiosities. Doug's profile includes a link to Peter Finn's Washington Post article on The Overcoat, a Norstein animation 20 years in the making.

http://filmjourney.weblogger.com/2005/08/05

Jonathan made me eager for more Norstein and Doug recommended Norstein's Tale of Tales. I located the third volume of Masters of Russian Animation at Virgin and was delighted to see it included Tale of Tales. So I didn't think twice, bought it, and came home to savor it.

"Tale of Tales," Doug writes, "juxtaposes images of innocence and gaiety with images of war and vanishing soldiers, nostalgic visions of childhood with a parent downing a bottle of vodka. The Soviet censors, baffled by the film's poetry, assumed it had to be subversive and demanded that Norstein make extensive changes. He refused, and luckily, had just been awarded a State honor that made it virtually impossible for the authorities to suppress the work."

Tale of Tales is laminated with enchantment. Layer by layer. A suckling baby is sung a lullaby, wooing it to sleep lest the little grey fox abduct him to take him into the scary woods where a green apple glows wet with rain.

The little grey fox is maligned. He is sweet, clever and curious. He flirts with himself in shiny hubcaps. The exhaust fumes of cars make him sneeze and his sneeze startles birds into flight. A hot potato burns his paws. A young girl jumps rope with a steer that, every now and then, likes to take its turn. A poet anguishes over what to envision, what to say. Women and men dance underneath a streetlight and each time the record skips another husband / father / son is lost to the ravages of war. A one-legged veteran plays a sad concertina. A fish floats in the sky catching the attention of an idle cat who, by caterwauling, teaches the poet how to orate. A boy imagines himself befriending winter birds on a tree limb above him. Is the baby dreaming all of this? Is this where the lullaby has taken him? Is this where it has taken us? Whimsical and poignant, Tale of Tales masterfully purveys a deep realm where images are deftly woven into feelings.

7 comments:

Mubarak Ali said...

Nice reading, as always! Your wonderful description brings memories of my viewing of Tale of Tales (and other Norstein films) at a retrospective last year. I remember it as I would a dream and long to experience it again. (I'm also very fond of Hedgehog in the Fog and Heron and Crane.)

Maya said...

Thanks for stopping by Mubarak Ali; it's much appreciated. The second volume of the Masters of Russian Animation Series includes "Heron and Crane", I believe, and it's at the head of my Greencine queue, so hopefully I'll get to see it too. Your own blog looks like a motherlode to be mined and I look forward to that opportunity. Until then, my best.

Monika said...

Hey there! I'm so glad to see so many interested in the subject! I hope to complement this blog with a collection of clips from the entire series (including Norstein's Tale Of Tales and other ones that are on these DVDs)- if you'd like to take a peak please check the IFILM's Masters Of Russian Animation Collection. Enjoy!

Maya said...

Monika, thanks for swinging by and offering that wonderful link!! IFILM is a treasure trove.

Monika said...

Thank you Maya :)It's a new discovery for me and I'm quite fascinated with the films myself, especially the more risky and provocative ones, like Glass Harmonica. I also have all film overviews from the Animated Soviet Propaganda series. These are half hour documentaries that include rare clips that go as far as early 20s. Check it out, let me know waht you think!

Monika said...

Thank you Maya :)It's a new discovery for me and I'm quite fascinated with the films myself, especially the more risky and provocative ones, like Glass Harmonica. I also have all film overviews from the Animated Soviet Propaganda series. These are half hour documentaries that include rare clips that go as far as early 20s. Check it out, let me know waht you think!

Diana Norma said...

I have been fascinated with the Tale of Tales for a long time,and each time I watch it, I see something new. While your descriptions of scenes are lovely, I am wondering what you make of the film as a whole, as connected to the title. I have been developing my own ideas about the film for about 1 year now.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts. By the way, it is not a "grey fox," but a wolf. Listening to the words of the lullaby reveal this.