Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Tale of Tales

Skazka skazok; animated short, Russia, 1979; D: Yuriy Norshteyn, S: Alexander Kalyagin

A humanoid grey wolf traverses through various episodes as he observes humans: a group of people dancing is interrupted when all men have to go to war; a mother feeding its baby; a family enjoying a picnic with a girl playing jump rope with a bull; a poet; a child eating an apple and sharing it with crows during the winter.

As someone already commented, why do hallucinogenic films without a clear plot always get such a critical acclaim? One of the fake masterworks of cinema, 30 minute animated short "Tale of Tales" is an unusual, challenging and delicate little film, but one can hardly share the fact that it was named as "the best animated short film of all time" at the Los Angeles and Zagreb Film Festivals: director Norshteyn crafts a heavily abstract anti-story in the form of 'stream-of-consciousness' - with the leitmotif of the little humanoid wolf acting as the symbol of nature (?) observing the history of Russian people or maybe as the metaphor of untouched memory (?) - filled with neat dreamy mood, but few truly poetic moments. Some images are indeed great (the stylistic sequence of people dancing, until all the men "disappear" and go to fight in the war, leaving all the women alone on the dance floor), yet mostly the viewers will have trouble deciphering brilliance out of all those surreal scenes, unless you think that a bull playing jump rope with a girl is something profound. Can you, for instance, seriously claim that that any scene in the film is as powerful as the one where a naked Ami Mizuno is walking inside the painting of her father and talking with her alter ego Sailor Mercury in "Ami's Song of the Heart" or when Trent seems to be sleeping on the market, but when Daria and Jane make a positive comment about him he opens his eyes and smiles in "That was Then, This is Dumb"? Still, a contemplative movie from the Russian cinema


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