Overview of work
The wide variety of techniques employed by Longpré should not blind us to the fact that his films are first and foremost graphic works consisting of images linked by a narrative thread. These characteristics are already apparent in his first film Test 0558 (1965), an abstract work in which he experimented with the potential of using a computer (in those days a relatively unfamiliar machine).
|Carrousel (1968). © NFB||Tête en fleur (1969). © NFB|
On the other hand another experimental film, L’évasion des carrousels/Carousel (1968) is a figurative work in which the story is just an excuse for the artist to play with a series of images created with effects similar to those of solarization. Yet Longpré’s next two films, Tête en fleurs (1969) and Nébule (1973), in both of which he rephotographs his works on paper to obtain grainy textures, confirm again that his main concern is graphic art. Tête en fleurs, a fast-paced playful series of metamorphoses, bears very little relation to the words of the song by Claude Gauthier that inspired it, but rather uses the principal metaphor of the song – the flower-head of the title – to set in movement a series of light-hearted pictorial variations. Nébule is more story-based but soon expands into an imaginary dimension that is more art than narrative. The film, made for children, presents an emphatically graphic universe where the real world fades into a series of visual fantasies: the child’s playful imagination transforms his environment into a dynamic, unpredictable space.
|Monsieur Pointu (1975). © NFB||Itinerary (1987). © NFB|
Nébule replicates the predominant mood of Dimensions (1966), Longpré’s first film for children, in which he used the technique of pixillation. Once again he starts with a concrete situation – here, a boy and a girl are faced with their own size relative to that of the objects around them – but soon departs from any sort of dramatic progress in favour of a series of variations on a theme.
Another pixillated film, Monsieur Pointu (1975), co-directed with André Leduc, is similar in structure. We see the “fiddler” Paul Cormier wrestling with a recalcitrant violin, a bow and a hat with a will of its own and soon finding himself caught up in a hilarious musical and visual game in which he is by turns juggler, lion tamer and puppet. Although made soon after Norman McLaren’s pixillated films (A Chairy Tale and Discours de bienvenue), Monsieur Pointu does not have the political subtext characteristic of McLaren’s work. Indeed, although here the objects refuse to submit to the fiddler’s demands, the mood is still one of a jolly merry-go-round. Nominated for an Oscar for best short animated film, Monsieur Pointu recalls the playful special effects of George Méliès and the “trick films” of the early days of movies.
Les naufragés du quartier/One Way Street, made in 1980, portrays society as a complex machine that crushes all hope. A man, depressed by a numbing job, sinks into alcoholism and drags his family down with him. Family violence, grief, loneliness and prostitution are the results of a relentless chain of events. Although this is Longpré’s most markedly narrative film, he remains true to his own unique style: the graphics are still the most important thing. The fluid lines and wealth of metaphor here are reminiscent of those in Tête en fleur.
His last films – Itinéraire/Itinerary (1987) and Félicité/Felicity (1989) – are the work of an illustrator who is closer to painting than to filmmaking and is less concerned by cinematic and narrative elements.