Thursday, 11 June 2009

Philippe Vaucher "The Song-Catcher/ Chasse papillon" (NFB 2001)

The mission of The National Film Board of Canada is “to interpret Canada to Canadians and the rest of the world.” The NFB has been producing animation since 1941, with a host of works having won or been nominated for the Academy Award. Earlier this year the government funded organisation began to release its archive to the public. I could so easily devote the Animation Blog wholeheartedly to Canadian works for the foreseable future, so rich is the material. I'll be selective. The links will be to the organisation's YouTube channel. Their team have written elegantly composed notes together with appropriate credits. I shall attempt to avoid lifting them but don't compare too rigorously .....

The Song-Catcher commences in the past where a young woman paints a portrait of a butterfly whilst listening to a record playing on an old style phonograph (or gramophone as we say in the UK.) She dies tragically young leaving her husband to face an empty life alone. He captures her memory through a lifetime pursuit- collecting butterflies. Towards the end of his life he traps one in his killing jar from which emanates the music associated with his late wife (Christoph Willibald von Gluck); following the sound and disappearing butterfly he embarks on a final expedition to the countryside. Rich in symbolism, hovering between phases of life and memories, the haunting music, the fluttering flight of the insects and the gradual aging of the man make for a memorable movie. Sketched in charcoal on paper the dark, smudgy drawings are vividly delineated with, as the screen grab shows, just a smidgen of colour for the butterfly. Ever since I read Susan Hill's "I'm the King of the Castle" I have harboured suspicions of those who spear butterflies for glass cases but I shall suspend doubts in this case. Originally from Montreal, director Philippe Vaucher obtained his initial degree at Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema, Concordia University and has successfully freelanced since. He studied for an MA at the University of the West of England in Bristol, producing Wuji in 2007, a film about which I will write shortly.

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