René Jodoin (1920-2015)

René Jodoin (1920-2015)

It is with great sadness that we learned of the passing of NFB pioneer animator René Jodoin on January 22.

René Jodoin was born in Hull on December 30, 1920. After graduating from the École des beaux-arts in 1943, he joined the National Film Board, working with Norman McLaren in the Animation Section. Jodoin was among the first generation of filmmakers hired by McLaren at the NFB. Of all the filmmakers in the group, he is undoubtedly the one who was most influenced by McLaren. His flair for innovation and his artisan’s perception of animation were in keeping with the McLaren legacy, as was his unique understanding of what constituted the role of the artist as civil servant. Like McLaren, Jodoin considered himself an artist working in the interests of society, something that called for rigour but more importantly modesty and awareness of one’s responsibility to the public. As a result, while Jodoin’s work is essentially joyful, it also contains an underlying, yet not overbearing, didactic quality.

Jodoin directed just over 10 films. His first was Alouette, co-directed with McLaren (1944). As an experimental filmmaker, he was fascinated by the principles of geometry, which he tackled with an amazing eye for effect. A case in point is his educational film, An Introduction to Jet Motors (1960). Although the subject may seem dry, Jodoin succeeds in making the internal functioning of the machine comprehensible by means of simple forms and choreographed movement. The ease of his style is evident in Dance Squared (1961), Notes on a Triangle (1966), Rectangle and Rectangles (1984), and A Matter of Form (1984), four films intended as introductions to geometry that display a captivating simplicity even though they are based on precise, scientific calculations.

In 1966, Jodoin founded the French Program animation studio which he headed until 1977. During that time, he brought together a team of young filmmakers. Taking his cue from his apprenticeship with McLaren, he encouraged experimentation, craftsmanship and diversity. As a producer, he oversaw the making of such memorable films as Wind by Ron Tunis (1972), the Oscar® nominated Monsieur Pointu by André Leduc and Bernard Longpré (1975), and The Bronswik Affair by Robert Awad and André Leduc (1978). Jodoin was also a pioneer. In the early 1970s, he produced the Chansons Contemporaines series, which is now considered to be a precursor to the video clip. Computer-assisted animation experiments were also carried out under his direction, ultimately leading to the production of Hunger by Peter Foldès (1973) a film that won the Special Jury Prize at Cannes and was also nominated for an Oscar®.

Following his retirement from the NFB in 1985, René Jodoin began experimenting with filmmaking on his home computer. In 2001, the Government of Quebec awarded him the Prix Albert Tessier, given to individuals with outstanding careers in Quebec cinema.

  • René Jodoin
    2005|5 min

    A portrait of director and producer René Jodoin, one of Norman McLaren’s early collaborators and the founder of the NFB French Program’s animation studio.

  • Alouette

    This animated short co-animated by René Jodoin and Norman McLaren was produced for inclusion in the Let's All Sing Together sing-along series. It illustrates the popular song Alouette, gentille alouette. The technique used is single-frame animation of paper cutouts.

  • Rectangle & Rectangles
    1984|8 min

    --Seizure Warning-- This is a didactic film in disguise. A progression of brilliant geometric shapes bombard the screen to the insistent beat of drums. The filmmaker programmed a computer to coordinate a highly complex operation involving an electronic beam of light, colour filters and a camera. This animation film, without words, is designed to expose the power of the cinematic medium, and to illustrate the abstract nature of time.

  • Notes on a Triangle
    1966|4 min

    In this short animation film the triangle achieves the distinction of principal dancer in a geometric ballet. The triangle is shown splitting into some three hundred transformations, dividing and sub-dividing with grace and symmetry to the music of a waltz. The film's artist and animator is René Jodoin, whose credits include Dance Squared and several collaborations with Norman McLaren. Film without words.

  • Spheres

    This animated short by Norman McLaren and René Jodoin is a play on motion set against a background of multi-hued sky. Spheres of translucent pearl float weightlessly in the unlimited panorama of the sky, grouping, regrouping or colliding like the stylized burst of some atomic chain reaction. The dance is set to the musical cadences of Bach, played by pianist Glenn Gould.

  • Hunger
    1973|11 min

    In this animated short, director Peter Foldès depicts one man’s descent into greed and gluttony. Rapidly dissolving and ever-evolving images create a contrast between abundance and want. One of the first films to use computer animation, this satire serves as a cautionary tale against self-indulgence in a world still plagued by hunger and poverty.

  • Balablok
    1972|7 min

    Bretislav Pojar's animated short explores the human phenomenon of resorting to violence over reason. The cubes live happily amongst themselves until one of them encounters a ball. War erupts and they fight until they all become the same again – this time in the form of hexagons. All is right in the world until one of them stumbles upon a triangle… Winner of the 1973 Grand Prix du Festival for Short Film at the International Film Festival in Cannes.

  • Monsieur Pointu

    This animated short about virtuoso stage entertainer Monsieur Pointu (Paul Cormier) is screen magic at its best. Here, the man and his violin are literally taken apart - head, feet, limbs, various items of stage attire, bow, strings, and box all go into their own separate acts, with strange and amusing results.

  • The Bronswik Affair
    1978|24 min

    This funny yet serious short film demonstrates the effectiveness of advertising and the marketing machine. Its comic appeal lies in the characters and the absurd situations they find themselves in, but it also shines a harsh light on our tendency towards needless consumerism prompted by a steady flow of commercials.