Back in the day I’d flip through the Norman McLaren DVD box set regularly, but times change and you get old and overwhelmed with things and one day you realize you haven’t watched any McLaren in six years.
Blinkity Blank (1955)
Advanced hand-etched animation – musical battle of red dot vs. blue dot, flickering and transforming into different images for an instant at a time.
R. Koehler called it “possibly his greatest film, in which McLaren discovered the effect of not drawing on every single frame.”
One may briefly notice (provided one doesn’t blink) a flurry of feathers, a parachute, a bird cage, a pineapple, an umbrella that turns into a hen-like figure, as well as many undescribable doodles that keep bouncing all over the screen. “This is not a film you see,” wrote French critic André Martin in 1955, “it’s a film you think you see.” You do hear, however, and not just think you hear, Maurice Blackburn’s dodecaphonistic score … with strikingly percussive synthetic-sound punctuations added throughout like so many punches by McLaren’s scratchings on the soundtrack.
C’est L’aviron (1944)
Gentle boat ride in sync with a vocal French tune, constant 3D zoom forwards (and sometimes backwards) over sea, through clouds and towns. There’s a behind-the-scenes film explaining how it was made,
Mathematical dance of stop-motion spheres against a morphing cosmic backdrop. Codirected with René Jodoin in 1946, with music added two decades later.
Love on the Wing (1939)
A post office advert – see also the Len Lye shorts – in which two postal letters are in love. Fast-paced, surrealist-inspired etched animation, characters constantly morphing into different figures.
La Poulette Grise (1947)
Variations of chicken/egg paintings, contorting slowly to a vocal song by Anna Malenfant (doesn’t that mean Anna Badchild?). At the end, the chicken sails away upon a crescent moon.
A Little Phantasy on a Nineteenth Century Painting (1946)
Chalky animation upon a reproduction of an Arnold Böcklin painting.
Là-Haut Sur Ces Montagnes (1946)
Another generative painting, a nice pastoral scene
Book Bargain (1937)
Short doc with voiceover showing the process of printing the London phone book. Cool machinery but kind an unexciting industrial film.