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' linkage to where Badger can be viewed in its entirety:

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.

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.