Neighbours dir. Norman McLaren (1952)
Never a wrong time for Norman McLaren.
As always with McLaren, there’s visual treats aplenty, much of it coming from the pixalation technique where the camera is stopped and started, lending live action scenes the frenetic quality of stop-motion. This allows flowers to dance, fences to build themselves, and men possibly stoned out of their minds from sniffing a flower to hover over the ground. The soundtrack was painted directly onto the film’s edge where the projector would render the marking as sound.
As an allegory it’s pretty basic, and the point is literally spelled out in the end just in case the part where men hit each other with two-by-fours was too subtle. It’s as much fun to watch as his other work, and just about as frivolous with the major exception of the moment when each man slapsticks the others’ wife and child to death. A baby getting punted off screen is unnerving however it’s presented.
After failing to find much interest inside or outside its native Canada from distributors who found it “too gruesome and of a poor technical quality,” the film unexpectedly got two Oscar nominations and one win – curiously, for short subject documentary, maybe the Academy simply thought this is how things happen across the northern border. American distributors subsequently decided to give the film a go, though they cut the shocking double homicides. McLaren later restored those scenes during the Vietnam War.