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.