Dots (Norman McLaren, 1940, Canada)

Dots is a unique short film. The film opens with a red screen and a title. Blue dots begin appearing on the screen, first in large splotches and then shrinking. The blue dots then begin crashing into each other and making various geometric patterns. This is all accompanied by a soundtrack that could best be described as early electronic music. The blips and bleeps perfectly fit the dots on the screen. There is almost a beatboxing quality to the music. The dots begin to appear in more rapid succession, dancing around the screen. Sometimes these animations appear as characters. Sometimes that form as stars and look like stars colliding.

Norman McLaren was a Scottish-Canadian animator, and Dots, made in 1940, is one of his early works. The film was made after McLaren moved to New York City in 1939 on a Guggenheim grant. While McLaren is perhaps best known for his 1952 anti-war film Neighbours, his animations stand the test of time. The highlight of a film like Dots is the sense of discovery onscreen, as we feel as though we are following McLaren's creative process as he makes the film onscreen. Also worth highlighting is the music, which sounds like contemporary electronic music. The sounds were hand-drawn into the images. The quality of the music is very similar to 8-bit video game music, and the rhythms are quite funky. The soundscape is probably the highlight of this film. We here at Cinephilic Musings are curious to explore more of McLaren's work, as he was a gifted animator with a distinct and pioneering style. Some people have commented that the blips and bloops sound like flatulence, which is true, but this might have been intentional on McLaren's part. Overall, this short little gem is a pleasure to watch and a pleasure for animators.


7/10

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