Thursday, February 14, 2013

Pixilated: filmmaker Linda Thornburg on Grant Munro—actor, choreographer, filmmaker, and clown

Grant Munro
I hadn't thought about Norman McLaren or Grant Munro since film school, but there was Munro sliding in Chaplinesque style across the screen in my living room. "OMG!" I cried. "That's Norman McLaren's film! Where did you get that?" "From Daedalus" was the reply.
With the same wonder I had 40 years ago, I sat and watched the pixilated Grant Munro moving effortlessly, skating in circles on his cobble-soled work boot. Actor, choreographer, filmmaker, and clown, Grant Munro coined the term "pixilation" for the high-speed, stop-motion technique he and McLaren used in their work together.  He and Canada’s most famous animator collaborated on a number of experimental and animated films for the National Film Board of Canada during the 50s.
Norman McLaren
The most celebrated and also most controversial of their pixilated films was Neighbours/Voisins, a parody about the Cold War arms race.  Described as "viciously funny," Neighbours is about two apparently peaceful men who fight to the death over a flower growing between their houses. The film won the Oscar for Best Live-Action Short Subject in 1952. To make the film palatable to Communist-fearing US and European audiences of the 50s, McLaren and Munro were forced to cut the scene in which the men kill each others' wives and children. In the 70s, during the Vietnam War, the excluded scene was restored to the film, strengthening its then-popular anti-war message.
Cut-Up: The films of Grant Munro also includes several of the Munro/McLaren collaborations, as well as a number of Munro's playful animations and humorous live-action shorts. The collection also includes two previously lost, unfinished shorts by Munro and McLaren, Six and Seven-Eighths and On the Farm, unavailable anywhere else.
Linda Thornburg is an award-winning filmmaker. Her pioneering film "Oh Dear: A History of Woman Suffrage," cost her her job. Find our more about Thornburg's films at www.mermaidssinging.com. Her whimsical side is evident at http://missboogiesadventures.blogspot.com/2013/02/oh-joe.html.

7 comments:

  1. Thank you, Ms. Thornberg. Munro and McLaren are brilliant. But don't let the Republicans see the film. It plays into their theory that the seeds of violence are not found in bullets, but in the hearts of men.

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    1. We have always found ways to kill each other, with or without guns, but think of the carnage these two would have created with assault rifles. (Or NNS, see below.)

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  2. Wow, Norman McLaren's Neighbours was INTENSE! The last few min so violent and barbaric, all over coveting a flower of all things. I see the symbolism in aspects of this film and it was definitely visually stimulating and far ahead of its time, but my goodness, not at all what I was expecting.

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    1. McLaren was inspired to make Neighbours after a year in the People's Republic of China. He wanted to make a strong anti-war, anti-militarist statement.

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  3. Fascinating. I was thinking that if the neighbors were American, they would have just shot each other... then I remembered Michael Nesmith's pioneering Elephant Parts, (which won the first Grammy award given to a music video), and knew that if Americans were involved, the situation would include crude (also very funny) television advertising. From 1981, here's Neighborhood Nuclear Superiority.

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    1. Loved NNS! The ultimate 2nd Amendment argument, taken to its (il)logical conclusion. Thanks.

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  4. Anytime Ms Thornburg is writing or the mermaids are singing,
    i am in awe of greatness, and read/listen carefully... transcendent, transformed and far less truculent.

    Admiringly,
    The Baron

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