These films were considered to be groundbreaking experiments in stereoscopic animation from the NFB, a pioneer in auteur stereoscopic animation. Part of MoMA’s “3D Funhouse” the program will feature works by film legend and NFB animation studio founder Norman McLaren and frequent collaborator Evelyn Lambart, one of Canada’s pioneering women animators.
The program begins with Now Is the Time (1951; 3 min.), a brief reminder from McLaren that the audience must do its part in creating the spectacle by donning their 3D glasses. It’s followed by three more animated 3D classics from the NFB: O Canada (1952; 2 min.), directed by Evelyn Lambart; Around Is Around (1951; 8 min.), directed by McLaren with animation by Lambart; and Twirligig (1952; 4 min.), directed by McLaren with animation by Gretta Ekman.
The NFB films are screening along with a selection of 3D actuality and educational films from the same era produced in the Soviet Union and restored by Gosfilmofond. Eloi Champagne, technical director of the NFB’s Oscar-winning Animation Studio, will introduce the NFB shorts. Concluding the program are three rarities from the 3-D Film Archive, presented by its founder, Robert Furmanek.
This program of rare short films suggests the international reach of the 3D phenomenon of the late 1940s and early 1950s as well as the range of material created for the new medium. The MoMA screenings take place as the centenary of McLaren’s birth in Stirling, Scotland, is being marked by screenings and events around the world.
Many of the other films in the festival will be receiving their first American screening since their original release; others will be shown in meticulously restored editions that more closely approximate the original experience of the film; a few will even be publicly screened for the first time ever in New York—including work by Orson Welles (sequences filmed but never used for the 1938 Mercury Theatre production Too Much Johnson). Also presented are films by Charles Chaplin, Maya Deren, Allan Dwan, Derek Jarman, Sergio Leone, Kenji Mizoguchi, Raul Ruiz, and Edgar G. Ulmer. Guest presenters include Kathryn Bigelow, John Boorman, George Chakiris, and Ken Jacobs.
The opening-night film is the North American premiere of a new MoMA restoration: Allan Dwan’s 1929 masterpiece The Iron Mask, a rousingly entertaining swashbuckler starring Douglas Fairbanks as D’Artagnan. A stand-alone sequel to Fairbanks’s 1921 hit The Three Musketeers, The Iron Mask was, in the words Dwan, “the last of the big silents,” and the swashbuckling action—superbly filmed by Dwan, one of the great masters of the seamless classical style—leads gracefully into a poignant farewell to silent films and the larger-than-life figures who inhabited them.
Midway through production, Fairbanks decided to yield in part to the rapidly emerging demand for talking pictures and added three spoken sequences to the film. Thanks to the recent rediscovery of the missing soundtrack discs, The Iron Mask will be heard for the first time since 1929 with all of the spoken sequences, as well as Hugo Riesenfeld’s symphonic score, restored to their original fidelity. Preserved by The Museum of Modern Art with support from the Celeste Bartos Fund for Film Preservation.
Click here for more information about the MoMA festival. Click here for the Fun House program, running on Thursday, November 20, 2014, where the NFB 3D shorts will screen.