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Director: Yuri Norstein
Release Date: 1979
Rating: ★★½
Review:

Tale of Tales © SoyuzmultfilmIn ‘Tale of Tales’ we’re watching a wolf cub trying to survive his loneliness in an old house, relying on his memories.

These images are altered with images of a river scene with a.o. a fisherman, his wife and his children, and a giant Picasso-like minotaur skipping rope. Two other recurring images are that of dancing wives losing their men to war, and that of a little boy eating apples in the snow.

‘Tale of Tale’s is regarded as Yuri Norstein’s masterpiece and as one of the best animation films of all time. This does not mean it is the most accessible of all films, on the contrary. ‘Tale of Tales’ is a poetic film, but a confusing one. The nostalgic images seem unrelated, and are shown in a non-linear fashion. In fact, it is very difficult to render a ‘tale’ out of the images, which are intrinsically very strong, especially those of the melancholy wolf cub and of the iconic river scene.

Most of the film is made of muddy images in sepia-tones, rendering a dreamy atmosphere. Many images return, bridged by the wolf cub character, who, alone, seems to live in the present, outside of the images of a childhood long past. There’s some vague sense of a happy childhood being shattered by war and being lost in time.

The film uses no dialogue, and even the music is timid in its evocation of mood. Some of the cut-out animation is superb, however, and the overall imagery one of great virtuosity. The end result is as beautiful as it is overlong and frustratingly incomprehensible.

Watch ‘Tale of Tales’ yourself and tell me what you think:

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Director: Eduard Nazarov
Release Date: 1979
Rating: ★★
Review:

Hunt © SoyuzmultfilmThis Soviet animation film starts when a boy enters a hunting shop.

When he looks at a photo of a hunter on top of a dead lion, his imagination starts to wander. He imagines himself in a forest, and on a Savannah, full of wildlife. When encountering the lion, he prevents the hunter from shooting. Unfortunately, he’s awoken by the shop owner.

‘Hunt’ is a silent film, told with realistic images, strong 1970s designs, and dated electronic music. The film’s opening is probably its best: we’re watching images of busy and indifferent city life, before zooming in on the boy. The film clearly celebrates life, especially in the Savannah scenes, which form a rich contrast to the dull city life images. Nevertheless, the film feels traditional and naive, and more as a product of its time than as a timeless classic.

Watch ‘Hunt’ yourself and tell me what you think:

Director: Michel Ocelot
Release date: 1979
Rating: ★★★★★
Review:

Les trois inventeurs © Michel OcelotWith this animation film Michel Ocelot made his name in the world of animation.

In this film he uses elegant cut-out designs with a stunning virtuosity to evoke the gallant world of the late 18th century. The elaborate and graceful cut-outs recall the works by Lotte Reiniger from the 1920s, although Ocelot uses white laced paper on monochrome backgrounds, opposed to Reiniger’s black shapes.

The story is told with a little voice over, and a small amount of dialogue. The narrator introduces to us a family of inventors, a man, a woman and a little girl whose inventions (a balloon, a knitting machine and an automatic bird, respectively) are misunderstood and destroyed by the fearful, jealous and narrow-minded townspeople. When they try to show a steam engine to their neighbors, things go particularly awry.

True enough, the film suffers from bad sound designs and rather ugly harpsichord music. Yet, the film is not only beautiful to look at, Ocelot succeeds in evoking real emotions of disappointment, loss and fear. Its ending is disturbing enough, making it a true classic from the late 1970s. Indeed, the film won several prizes. Later, Ocelot would become an even greater voice in the animation world, especially with his feature film ‘Kirikou et la sorcière’ (1998).

Watch ‘Les trois inventeurs’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Les trois inventeurs’ is available on the DVD ‘Les trésors cachés de Michel Ocelot’

Director: Raoul Servais
Release Date: 1979
Rating: ★★★★★ ♕
Review:

Harpya © Raoul ServaisA man rescues a harpy from a man who strangles her. He takes her home, but with disastrous results, because he soon discovers that the harpy eats all his food…

‘Harpya’ is a fantastic surreal film, which makes great use of a mixture of animation, live action and pixillation to create a totally unique atmosphere. The film is both funny and uncanny, and its story is Servais’s best since ‘Sirene’ (1968).

With ‘Harpya’ Raoul Servais made his most enduring work. It’s his all-time masterpiece, and a central film in his oeuvre, defining his mature style.

Watch ‘Harpya’ yourself and tell me what you think:

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