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Neighbours (film)

Neighbours (film)

Neighbours (French title: Voisins) is a 1952 short film by Scottish-Canadian filmmaker Norman McLaren.

Produced at the National Film Board of Canada in Montreal, the film uses the technique known as pixilation, an animation technique using live actors as stop-motion objects. McLaren created the soundtrack of the film by scratching the edge of the film, creating various blobs, lines, and triangles which the projector read as sound.

Plot

Two men (Jean Paul Ladouceur and Grant Munro) live peacefully side by side in houses made of cardboard, but when a flower blooms between both their houses, they fight each other to the death over the ownership of the single small flower.

Controversy

Neighbours has garnered the label "one of the most controversial films the NFB ever made". Further, the eight-minute film was politically motivated:

"I was inspired to make Neighbours by a stay of almost a year in the People's Republic of China. Although I only saw the beginnings of Mao's revolution, my faith in human nature was reinvigorated by it. Then I came back to Quebec and the Korean War began. (...) I decided to make a really strong film about anti-militarism and against war." — Norman McLaren

However, the version of Neighbours that ultimately won an Oscar was not the version McLaren had originally created. In order to make the film palatable for American and European audiences, McLaren was required to remove a scene in which the two men, fighting over the flower, murdered the other's wife and children.

During the Vietnam War, public opinion changed, and McLaren was asked to put the sequence back in. The original negative of that scene had been destroyed, so it was salvaged from a positive print of lower quality.

Pixilation

The term 'Pixilation' was created by Grant Munro, who had worked with McLaren on Two Bagatelles, a pair of short pixilation films made prior to Neighbours. While Neighbours is often credited as an animated film by many film historians, very little of the film is actually animated. The majority of the film is shot with variable-speed photography, usually in fast motion, with some stop-frame techniques. During one brief sequence, the two actors appear to levitate: this effect was actually achieved in stop-motion; the men repeatedly jumped upward but were photographed only at the top of their trajectories. Under the current definition of an animated short, it is unlikely that Neighbours would qualify as either a documentary short or an animated short.

McLaren followed Neighbors with two other films using a similar combination of pixilation, live action, variable speed photography and string-puppets. The first, A Chairy Tale (1957) was a collaboration with Claude Jutra and Ravi Shankar. The second, Opening Speech by Norman McLaren (1960) was made for the International Film Festival of Montreal, and starred McLaren himself.

Awards and honours

Neighbours is the winner of a Canadian Film Award as well as an Academy Award, where it was nominated twice, for Short Subject (One-reel) as well as Best Documentary (Short Subject). Strangely, it was in the Documentary category that this short, stylized drama won its Oscar. A press release isued by AMPAS states that Neighbours is "among a group of films that not only competed, but won Academy Awards in what were clearly inappropriate categories."

This film has been designated and preserved as a "masterwork" by the Audio-Visual Preservation Trust of Canada, a charitable non-profit organization dedicated to promoting the preservation of Canada’s audio-visual heritage.

Derivatives

Extreme's video for their first single, Rest in Peace, from their third album III Sides To Every Story, was closely modelled after Neighbours. The NFB took legal action and the matter was settled out of court, with withdrawal of the video from circulation.

References

See also

External links

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