Three Animated Shorts by the Groundbreaking Russian Animator Fyodor Khitruk

There aren’t many ani­ma­tors out there who would make a movie that jus­ti­fies the mur­der of annoy­ing peo­ple, but that’s pre­cise­ly what Russ­ian film­mak­er Fyo­dor Khitruk did with this break­through movie Sto­ry of One Crime (1962), which you can watch above. The film, about an unas­sum­ing clerk who snaps and kills his loud, incon­sid­er­ate neigh­bors with a fry­ing pan, was a land­mark in Rus­sia and not just because of its cri­tique of Sovi­et soci­ety — some­thing utter­ly unthink­able dur­ing Stalin’s reign just nine years pri­or. Unlike pre­vi­ous Russ­ian ani­mat­ed movies – which were large­ly Marx­ism-espous­ing Dis­ney knock­offs – this film pre­sent­ed a clean, mod­ern visu­al style that seemed more influ­enced by the likes of Paul Klee than by Dis­ney. The movie shook up the world of Sovi­et ani­ma­tion and helped start a rebirth of the indus­try.

Over his long career (he died in 2012 at the age of 95) Khitruk made two kinds of movies: car­toons for chil­dren – his most famous being his styl­ized adap­ta­tion of Win­nie the Pooh – and social­ly-aware satires. One in the lat­ter cat­e­go­ry is his short The Island (1973), which you can see above.

At first blush, it looks like the premise for a New York­er car­toon – a hairy look­ing cast­away is stuck on a com­i­cal­ly small island with a sin­gle palm tree. As the movie pro­gress­es, a parade of peo­ple pass through but don’t help. As the guy gets embroiled in an art heist, con­vert­ed by mis­sion­ar­ies, col­o­nized by an invad­ing army and mar­ket­ed to by mer­chants hawk­ing use­less goods, it becomes increas­ing­ly clear that the tit­u­lar island is less a sandy spot in the sea than a metaphor for soci­etal iso­la­tion. The Island end­ed up win­ning the Palme d’Or for the best short at the 1974 Cannes film fes­ti­val.

Anoth­er one of Khitruk’s shorts is Man in the Frame (1966), a movie that any­one who has ever endured office pol­i­tics in a large cor­po­ra­tion, or the polit­buro, can relate to. Drawn in a style that recalls Fer­nand Leg­er and Saul Stein­berg, the movie’s name­less pro­tag­o­nist ris­es high­er and high­er with­in a bureau­cra­cy only to lose some­thing in the process. You can watch it below.You can also find these Khitruk cre­ations on our list of Ani­mat­ed Films, part of our larg­er col­lec­tion called 4,000+ Free Movies Online: Great Clas­sics, Indies, Noir, West­erns, Doc­u­men­taries & More.

Relat­ed Con­tent: 

Watch Sovi­et Ani­ma­tions of Win­nie the Pooh, Cre­at­ed by the Inno­v­a­tive Ani­ma­tor Fyo­dor Khitruk

Two Beau­ti­ful­ly-Craft­ed Russ­ian Ani­ma­tions of Chekhov’s Clas­sic Children’s Sto­ry “Kash­tan­ka”

Watch The Amaz­ing 1912 Ani­ma­tion of Stop-Motion Pio­neer Ladis­las Stare­vich, Star­ring Dead Bugs

Sovi­et Ani­ma­tions of Ray Brad­bury Sto­ries: ‘Here There Be Tygers’ & ‘There Will Comes Soft Rain’

Jonathan Crow is a Los Ange­les-based writer and film­mak­er whose work has appeared in Yahoo!, The Hol­ly­wood Reporter, and oth­er pub­li­ca­tions. You can fol­low him at @jonccrowAnd check out his blog Veep­to­pus, fea­tur­ing one new draw­ing of a vice pres­i­dent with an octo­pus on his head dai­ly. 


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