Overview of work
A Filmmaker’s Fascination with the Pinscreen
By Marco de Blois
Jacques Drouin’s career is linked to one of the rarest of animation techniques: the pinscreen. Since few films have been made using this device, it is difficult to compare his work with that of other animators. His films follow the tradition established by Alexandre Alexeïeff (1901-1982) and Claire Parker (1906-1981), who pioneered the technique. Although their influence on Jacques Drouin’s films is obvious, he developed his own style by exploring the pinscreen’s potential.
|Imprints (2004). © NFB||Mindscape (1976). © NFB|
In his first two films (Trois exercices sur l’écran d’épingle d’Alexeïeff, 1974, and Mindscape, 1976), images with surrealistic overtones evolve through a succession of bewitching transformations. They display a lyrically poetic quality comparable to that of his predecessors (Night on Bald Mountain, 1933, comes to mind). However Mindscape, in which an artist wanders through the landscape of one of his paintings, is also an introspective, highly emotive piece, and was Drouin’s first work of note.
|Trois exercices sur l’écran d’épingles d’Alexeïeff (1974). © NFB||A Hunting Lesson (2001). © NFB|
Drouin began exploring other methods, beginning with Nightangel (1986), co-directed with the Czech filmmaker Bretislav Pojar, where he blends his pinscreen technique with puppet animation. Made without computerization, the film is the result of a complex process by which images created with the pinscreen are superimposed onto the puppets. Although Drouin did not pursue experimentation with this dual technique, the experience led him to place more emphasis on the narrative aspect of his films. Historically, the pinscreen has always been associated with the creation of a dreamlike quality. Lacking the mobility of a camera, it does not lend itself to continuity editing. However in his next films (Ex-Child, 1994, and A Hunting Lesson, 2001), Drouin applied the rules of live action camera work to the pinscreen (shot reverse shot, camera movements, etc.), demonstrating a virtuosity that is not always visible on screen.
Imprints (2004) could be considered as Drouin’s return to his roots, and indeed, the film makes us think immediately of Mindscape. Built around a sequence of transformations, the film shows the relationship between an artist and his creation, the difference being that Drouin takes the place of the painter and the pinscreen replaces the painting. The camera closes in on the surface and even ventures behind it to clearly reveal its material aspect (the metal of the pins and the bas-relief they form). Intense and poignant, Imprints is the filmmaker’s declaration of love for the pinscreen—an instrument that has been such an important part of his life.