Norman McLaren’s 1968 NFB film ‘Pas de deux’ creates a spellbinding aesthetic experience

I remember seeing this beautiful short film when it first came out, either on Canadian television or in a theater. ‘Pas de deux‘ was made in 1968 by Norman McClaren at the National Film Board of Canada. I had never seen anything quite like it. There were no special effects; the technologies had not been developed yet. Expand it to full screen and enjoy a spellbinding aesthetic experience.

How it was made and received

Considered by many to be Norman McLaren‘s masterpiece, ‘Pas de deux‘ is a stunning meditation on form and movement. He photographed backlit dancers dressed in white against a black backdrop, then used an optical printer to expose individual frames up to 11 times.

The film is choreographed to the music of Romanian panpipes. Ludmilla Chiriaeff is the choreographer; Margaret Mercier and Vincent Warren are the dancers. Dobre Constantin plays the pan flute accompanied by the United Folk Orchestra of Romania.

The film won 20 awards, nationally and internationally, at festivals in Melbourne, Locarno, Buenos Aires, Chicago, New York and London, including a special Canadian Film Award for exceptional quality. It was nominated for best live-action short at the 1968 Academy Awards.

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3 Responses to “Norman McLaren’s 1968 NFB film ‘Pas de deux’ creates a spellbinding aesthetic experience”

  1. olgac1 Says:

    Hi Kenny I remember seeing it as well, but like you, a long time ago It’s stunning Thanks for sending it Good night Olga

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  2. lizzielines Says:

    Hi Ken,

    It’s great that you’re reviewing Barry and Patricia’s book. Barry is speaking today at the International Day of Yoga – along with PM Modi!

    But why I’m writing is to recommend to you is an amazing ballet, called The Green Table: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Green_Table .

    My dad loved ballet and used to take me a couple of evenings a year to the Theatre Royal in Newcastle on Tyne in England. He said that if I were to see just one ballet it should be The Green Table. It’s a short piece about the utter futility of war and my dad, who was half German, saw it during the reconstruction just after the end of WW2 when he was stationed in Hamburg. Naturally a peaceful man, it had a profound impact on him. It’s not a comfortable watch and the timing made it very powerful.

    Funnily enough, the one ballet company to perform it regularly in recent times is the Joffrey in Chicago. Here’s a rehearsal, and the video is on Amazon. The portrayal of Death still makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.

    All best wishes, Lizzie Lines

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  3. Ken Chawkin Says:

    Yes, I am currently watching the webcast now. As for The Green Table, I will look for it on Amazon. Thank you. I checked and can’t find it. But I did find it on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QxJsITxObU4.

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