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As my avid readers (assuming they exist) would know, I consider Yuriy Norshteyn to be cinema's foremost animator, creator of some of the most breathtakingly beautiful films I've ever seen. It is an unfortunate consequence that such extraordinary talent comes at a price, and Norshteyn's output has always been painfully restricted, not only due to difficulty in securing finances, but also because of his adamance that every frame be constructed with meticulous care and precision. As I work my way through Norshteyn's all-too-brief filmography, I came across 'The Fox and the Hare (1973),' an uncharacteristically whimsical effort his other films have always struck me as being comparably sombre and, stylistically, much similar to the work of Aleksandr Tatarskiy, namely 'The Plasticine Crow (1981).' The film is presented to us almost as a moving picture book, each scene taking place in a specific frame, as though we are periodically turning our attention from one page to the next.
As often happens, my willingness to watch the film overcame my desire for English subtitles, and so I'll wager that my interpretation of the story differs somewhat from the official plot; however, I think I managed to follow what was happening. As winter gives way to spring in the Russian wilderness, a crafty fox promptly expels a defenceless hare from his warm, comfortable residence, claiming the house for himself and leaving the poor owner to sleep outside under the stars. An assortment of compassionate animals a wolf, a bear, a bull take pity on the disheartened hare, and attempt to evict the cunning fox, but to no avail. Along comes a hilariously militant rooster, proud and tenacious, who marches into the hare's house and doesn't give up until the fox has been hounded back into the wilderness. The ending is a suitably upbeat one; the actions of the fox are condemned for their heartless immorality, and the hare, having acquired a good friend through his troubles, is allowed to enjoy the home that he has constructed for himself.
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