Yuri Norstein Film Works (1971-1979) DVD9
Works by animator and animated film director Yuri Norstein have utterly altered the status of animated cartoon films, not only in Russia, but all around the world. The genre stopped being a marginal art. Just watch his animated cartoons Hedgehog in the Fog or Tale of Tales and you will see what is meant here.

Deliberately or not, Yuri Norstein gained the status of a classic master of animated cartoons upon the release of his Hedgehog in the Fog in 1975. In 1984 the international jury in Los Angeles called his Tale of Tales (1979) 'the greatest animated film ever'. And in 2003 Hedgehog in the Fog received the same sort of accolade in Japan.

Norstein has created a special genre of poetic animated cartoons, of pure lyricism developed through a sequence of visual images. Unexpected associations, sensations, reminiscences, fears and dreams are more meaningful than the actual unfolding of the plot in his original works.

Besides his vivid and touching cartoon characters and amazing delicate scripts, one is unmistakably impressed by a stunning effect of a 'living' screen, which is due to a special technology Norstein has elaborated himself. This is a most complicated method of multi-level transposition in the course of filming: the images are made as scaly combinations of tiny elements, with each of them able to move separately (each of the eyes, lips or fingers). As a result the character, though not looking like a realistic personage at all, but rather grotesque, amusing and irregular (Norstein deliberately insists on imperfect, 'non-ironed' drawing) seems to be really living and breathing.

DVD9 | PAL | 5.59 Gb + 3% rec
Language: Russian
Subtitles: none
Genre: Animation

THE BATTLE OF KERJENETS (1971), co-directed with Ivan Ivanov-Vano (10 minutes).
This film depicts the struggle of Russian people against foreign invaders. Ivanov-Vano recognizing Norstein's talent, gave his young protege considerable artistic freedom during production of this film and a co-directing credit. Fresco and icon paintings in the traditions of the ancient masters are combined with music from Rimsky Korsakov's opera Tale of the Invisible City Kitezh.

FOX AND RABBIT (1973) (12 minutes)
Based on an old Russian fairy tale, this film was commissioned by a now defunct European television distributor who changed the music and effects. This version includes Norstein's original soundtrack, previously unavailable outside the former USSR . The animation is based on the folk art and colorful images found on ancient Russian prialkas, which were used for carding wool. Like BATTLE AT KERZHENETS and Norstein's first solo film, 25th -First Day, FOX AND RABBIT was animated using levels of glass, a method that Norstein would hone to a high level of sophistication in his next films. The music written by a regular member of the Norstein team, M. Meyerovitch, was inspired by folk tunes. Norstein's wife, Francesca Yarbusova, was the main artist. According to Norstein, FOX AND RABBIT is a story about the destruction of belief, justice, honesty and fear which has "big eyes"

HERON AND CRANE (1974) (10 minutes)
Norstein 's third feature is based on a Russian fairy tale. It marked the first of several collaborations among Norstein, his wife, the artist Francesca Yarbusova, and a cameraman Alexander Zhukovsky. To achieve Norstein's artistic vision, they invented a special piece of equipment which allowed them to animate on layers of glass. Norstein's original script was not approved by the studio administration. Veteran director Roman Kachanov was assigned to serve as project "supervisor" and write an acceptable script. Unbeknownst to the studio administration, Norstein filmed the original script. Thanks in great part to support from Fyodor Khitruk, Norstein's HERON AND CRANE - with Norstein credited as co-writer - was approved for distribution after numerous additional clashes with the studio management. Very Popular in the former USSR , the film also won many honors abroad.

HEDGEHOG IN THE FOG (1975) (10 minutes)
After Heron and Crane, Norstein and his team thought about making an "easy" film. Writer Sergey Kozlov brought a "a little fairy tale" about a hedgehog who one evening, as usual, went to see his friend the bear cub and count the stars. The more Norstein thought about the script, the more difficult became the creative and artistic demands of the material. And although the Norstein team consisted of only three persons (Norstein, Yarbusova and Zhukovsky), the studio imposed on them the same production schedule given to films with large crews of 30 or more. By the day the film was due to be delivered to the studio, Norstein had only 20 percent completed. The director of Soyuzmultfilm was enraged and decided to shelve the project. He sent Norstein and Zhukovsky to a Communist Party committee meeting (as members of Soyuzmultfilm) to be reprimanded for disgracing the studio. Neither Norstein nor Zhukovsky were party members, but many of their friends were. Zhukovsky arrived early with a bottle of vodka and convinced a projectionist to stay late. He insisted that members of the committee see what Norstein had accomplished before making a final decision as to the fate of the film. The sixty meters the committee viewed were so impressive that all agreed to allowNorstein to complete the film. Seen widely abroad and within the USSR .

TALE OF TALES (1978) (29 minutes)
Named the "Best Animated Film of All Time" by the Los Angeles (USA) Olympic Arts Festival, the film weaves threads of realism and nostalgia with consummate artistry. At its core are a popular Russian lullaby, Pablo Picasso's minotaur, and images of the lost glories of Alexander Pushkin and the golden age of Russian literature.
1980 Lille (France) International Festival of Films Jury Grand Prize
1980 Zagreb (Yugoslavia) International Festival of Animated Cartoon Films, Grand Prize
1980 Ottawa (Canada) International Animation Film Festival, First Prize1984 Los Angeles (USA) Olympic Arts Festival "Best Animated Film of All Time

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