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Thursday, 10 July 2008

Malcolm Sutherland "Birdcalls"







I confess the concept behind Malcolm Sutherland’s 2006 animation Birdcalls was not immediately enthralling though more fool me because it is such a distinctive, quirky and very enjoyable movie. Using stop motion of pen on paper, it commences with a telephone recording device and note pad on which, after a period of rapid rewinding, the unknown recipient of the calls commences writing down the calls received. On foolscap the language of birdsong is faithfully denoted in algebraic and symbolic form. However it accords perfectly with the birdsong used as soundtrack. The calls gather a life of their own and we are treated to a variety of charming voices, appearing on the bare pad as animated symbols that for all I know are the symbols used to record birds by those experienced in such things. As night falls the pad darkens and the symbols are illuminated. It is only in the closing and opening credits that we are treated to the actual physical presence of the birds as perfectly drawn illustrations. Before that, to provide perspective, in the gloom of night we travel above an urban scene and the noise of the birds is replaced by traffic noise and the hustle and bustle of the city. It reminds us of what we have lost. The cast, other than Malcolm himself, is the nightingale, yellow billed cuckoo and bluethroat. A charming cast and delightful movie. The link above is to YouTube though a better quality version is to be found at AWNtv - Birdcalls or, even more helpfully, via his website. I will write on another of Malcolm's animations in the next day or so together with a little biographical detail.

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