Born in Montreal in 1937, Bernard Longpré studied at the Institut des arts graphiques under Albert Dumouchel. He at once proved his versatility, mastering disciplines from drawing to photography and sculpture. This love of exploration is apparent in his filmography, which includes not only cartoons but also a fiction film and a documentary, technical experiments, science films and shorts using pixillation.
He was recruited for the Film Board by René Jodoin in 1957, and started out as an animator in the department of films produced for the Ministry of Defence, where he created animated sequences for Jodoin’s educational film Comment fonctionne le moteur à jet/An Introduction to Jet Engines (1960). Thereafter he worked with Sidney Goldsmith, who was making Le poisson denrée périssable/Fundamentals of Fish Spoilage (1962), and with Kenneth McCready on Les glaciers/Glaciation (1965). These films made the most of his technical precision as an illustrator: the clarity of the demonstration often depends on Longpré’s skilled graphics.
He was interested in science, and his first film, Test 0558 (1965), was an early experiment with computer-based animation. This modest but ground-breaking movie heralded the pioneering role that the NFB, prompted by René Jodoin, was to play in the field of computerized animation over the next two decades.
Longpré was a prolific filmmaker, directing thirteen other films as well as collaborating with a number of other directors right up to his retirement in the early 1990s. With Tête en fleurs (1969), from a song by Claude Gauthier, he helped to launch the French animation studio. Monsieur Pointu, completed in 1975 and co-directed with Yves Leduc, was a sort of consecration, a visual fantasy created around the music of the “fiddler” Paul Cormier that was a hit and won an Oscar nomination. In 1980 he made Les naufragés du quartier, a pitiless commentary on the tragedies caused by alcoholism, which together with Monsieur Pointu is his most famous film. His film career closed with an autobiographical work (Itinéraire/Itinerary, 1987) and a pictorial study (Félicité/Felicity, 1989), two short films which seem closer to drawing and painting than to filmmaking. It is not surprising that after this he devoted himself almost entirely to painting until his death on June 24, 2002.