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Tarasov, Vladimir

Entry updated 10 January 2022. Tagged: Film, TV, People.

(1939-    ) Russian animator and director. In 1957 he joined Soyuzmultfilm, Russia's leading animation studio, becoming a director there 1970-1991. Tarasov directed several sf shorts of note during this period, as well as the occasional non-genre piece not discussed here. Subsequently he directed two 1993/1994 episodes of the animated Russian television series Nu, pogodi! (1969-2017; vt I'll Get You) about an anthromorphized wolf and hare; later he worked in India and Iran.

Tarasov's first genre work was The Mirror of Time (1976; original title Zerkalo vremeni); followed by the 18-minute Time, Forward (1977; original title Vpered, vremya!; vt Forward March, Time!) written by Boris Larin: though this is a tribute to Vladimir Mayakovsky, with his poetry read over animation showing the history of Soviet Russia, the penultimate segment looks to the future when Spaceships – one named after Mayakovsky – take the Revolution to the stars. This was a memorable exercise in propaganda (see Politics), which is often surreal, particularly during the sf section. After Contact (1978; original title Kontakt) came the 21-minute Shooting Range (1979; original title Tir) written by Viktor Slavkin, which might be considered borderline genre of the exaggerated present variety. A desperate unemployed New York teen is hired as a living target at a shooting range (the customers, fortunately, seem to be poor shots), possibly inspired by the similar range featuring in Robert Sheckley's Comic Inferno tale "Pilgrimage to Earth" (September 1956 Playboy as "Love, Incorporated"). The protagonist marries the cleaner, who becomes pregnant; when the business owner wants to advertise the child as a target they leave, and he hires another unemployed couple.

Next came The Return (1980; original title Vozvrashchenie); then the 10-minute The Button (1982; original title Pugovitsa) written by Elena Bogolyubova and Olga Bogolyubova. This was based on H G Wells's "A Moonlight Fable" (10 April 1909 Collier's Weekly; vt "The Beautiful Suit" in The Country of the Blind coll 1913). An artist initially alters the button on a self-portrait, but decides to upgrade the whole picture to make himself look more successful; the portrait then comes to life and tries to seduce his girlfriend. The 30-minute Anniversary (1983; original title Yubiley), written by Viktor Slavkin, is a tribute to Soviet animation, showing clips from the 1920s onwards. However, the framing device is sf: on their way to an interplanetary congress on animation, the Soviet delegation is forced to crashland on a hostile planet; the local Monsters steal, then watch, the delegation's films, whose positive message civilizes them. Tarasov's run of sf films finished strongly with Contract (1985; original title Kontrakt), based on a Robert Silverberg short story, and The Pass (1988; original title Pereval vt The Path), based on a Kir Bulychev novella.

As well as some finger-pointing towards pre-Revolutionary Russia, the shorts contain much Satire of the West: though similar to critiques of capitalism by Western artists, it is reduced to propaganda when contrasted with the uncritical homage to the Soviet Union in such films in Time, Forward (though this, interestingly, omits any reference to Russian leaders in its historical segments).

Limitations imposed by budget and the techniques available at the time means these cartoons' movement and character expressions tend to be simple and rarely fluid. This is countered by employing imaginative designs and backgrounds to make the animation interesting – including using stills – and having shifting art styles, such as going back and forth between realism and surrealism. The bright colours and shapes of psychedelia – particularly Yellow Submarine (1968) – are clearly a major influence. Tarasov's best works are The Return and The Pass, which can be considered classic animated shorts; however Time, Forward is visually impressive, whilst The Mirror of Time, The Contract and, to a lesser extent, Contact are solid sf with nice touches. [SP]

Vladimir Ilich Tarasov

born Moscow: 7 February 1939


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