This is a stupid thing to say (get ready!), but sometimes it's hard for my brain to remember that technology existed before, like, 1991. Clearly when I was born, my parents alerted the villagers via pony express and the doctor (shaman?) chiseled my birth certificate on a tablet of stone and then my dad went back to his job at the quarry where they mixed cement in the beak of a dinosaur pelican. Right? What? A monkey went into space? A computer knows how to play chess? They had cameras in the 1910s? I'm being ridiculous? Yeah, yeah, I know.

What I'm getting at here is that a tiny masterpiece like 1930's Le Roman de Renard (The Tale of the Fox), by Polish stop-motion animation genius Wadysaw Starewicz, is basically as amazing to me as that time Leonardo da Vinci invented the helicopter. Seriously, Wady, when I die, you and I are going to have the highest high-five in the history of heaven.

Created over a painstaking 10 years and starring hordes of gorgeous, creepy, dancing puppets, Le Roman de Renard—"the oldest and most beautiful story known to us animals"—tells the tale of one rascally fox. Reynard, like all foxes, is a complete asshole. He spends his days and nights hoodwinking his fellow animals into (a) giving him all of their snacks, (b) getting the shit beat out of them by neighborhood humans, or (c) dying. The animals take their grievances to the king (bon soir, Monsieur Lion!), who vows to administer justice to the slippery fox, beginning with this decree: "So that peace may reign, our subjects are forbidden to eat each other. Only vegetables, dairy produce, and fruit are permissible. Peace must reign in the land. All others will be hanged."

Well, Reynard does not change his ways, and the animals (ever-nervous "choir bunnies," "Sir Cock and his worthy wife, Lady Hen," "Mister Badger, best barrister at the beastly bar") never learn. Listen, animals. Y'all are stupid! Trickiness is that fox's very nature! Why would you climb down that well because Reynard told you that heaven is at the bottom ("Festoons of sausage, matchless delicacies! Here, death is not sad!")? HE IS A KNOWN LIAR! Do not stick your nose in that hole! Do not stick your tail in the frozen lake! Do not walk into those same booby traps over and over again for half an hour!

The extremely rare print was flown in "from France" for the Seattle Polish Film Festival last weekend (Scarecrow does NOT have it, we were told emphatically). According to Wikipedia, after seeing one of Starewicz's earlier films—a fairy tale about bugs—"one British reviewer was tricked into thinking the stars were live trained insects." So you see? I'm not the only one who can't tell the difference between technology and magic. Starewicz made magic. recommended