Animated Short(s) of the Week – The Works of Vladimir Tarasov
Shooting Range (1979)
Dir. Vladimir Tarasov
This week I have decided to focus on the works of an underappreciated master of Russian animation, Vladimir Tarasov. What I didn’t know going into this was just how underappreciated this man seems to be, as there is very little information about him to my (admittedly little) research. But perhaps I have found my calling… To write the Vladimir Tarasov Wikipedia page! Just when it seemed I could not possibly know more about one particular subject than anyone else, Mr. Tarasov comes drifting in to my life with his hammer and sickle, urging me away from those Capiitalist pigs I call my leaders, asking me to give his life questionable, barely researched context!
In the meantime, here are two of his better-known works, Contact and Shooting Range. Contact is a simple story, almost ridiculously so. An alien figure comes into a man’s contact, and proceeds to conduct basic communication with said man. The fascinating aspect of this piece is how informed it is by Western animation; the psychedelic (god I hate that descriptor, but it seems fitting here) colors and shapes, meeting with the elongated limbs and harsh low-angles seem immediately reminiscent of Yellow Submarine, but also takes a page from the works of Ralph Bakshi. Amidst this, however, is a lingering appreciation for nature that is distinctly Russian. Oh yeah, and it’s got a killer version Nino Rota’s The Godfather theme.
Shooting Range, well, it’s a different beast all together. No two ways about it, Shooting Range is pure unadulterated propaganda. Its story is also simple; a young man wanders the bustling metropolis desperately looking for a job, a mere innocent peasant in the hands of corporate evil and greed. So naturally, our hero eventually finds a job from a lasciviously kind tycoon, as a human target in a shooting range. Live in a capitalist world, and you are setting yourself up as a walking bullseye. It’s essentially The Most Dangerous Game for the set who found that film to be a bit too subtle. But once again, the animation is stunning to behold, a sense of movement that really does convey a level of panic in the viewer. That, and it’s hilarious. Intended effect be damned, it’s hilarious.
It should be noted that Shooting Range is available on the impossibly amazing DVD set Animated Soviet Propaganda, along with countless other gems of propaganda. Oh, so many I want to share on here. Ok then, just one more. This one’s from 1933, called Black & White, directed by I. Ivanov-Vano… And it’s intense; this one’s not quite the hilarity promised by Shooting Range.