In this animation film, Norman McLaren imparts unusual activity to an old French-Canadian nonsense song. Simple white cut-outs on pastel backgrounds, many by Evelyn Lambart, provide lively illustrations. The folksong "Mon Merle" is sung in French by the Trio Lyrique of Montreal.
This is a film about a (white) blackbird who loses body parts and gets them back three fold. This bird with three of everything dances to the old folk song. What is amazing about the film is that one only sees essentials – highly stylized and disconnected bits – the body parts are small paper rectangles, the eyes little paper circles. Here is what McLaren said to me about the film. “That sort of thing is Marcel Marceau [the French mime whom McLaren much admired]. Le Merle is full of that; you’re leaving out things; the bird is not structured like a bird. There are a lot of gaps but you assume it’s got a neck – so the viewer has to supply a lot of things which are not visible, but which are referred to by the motion. The fact that Marcel Marceau goes up a flight of steps – there are no steps there, he remains on the ground. I think it is the same thing when the bird bounces the eye in the clouds. You imply a floor. You’re given clues and I’m sure there’s a great variation in how much some people fill in compared with other people.”Donald McWilliams
From the playlist: Norman McLaren: Hands-on Animation
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Le merle, Norman McLaren, provided by the National Film Board of Canada
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