In this animated film without words, filmmaker Pierre Hébert and musicians Robert Marcel Lepage and René Lussier worked together, and separately, in their respective media. This cinema/music performance recreates, impressionistically, the dehumanizing environment of the urban subway. Drawings etch the outlines of people hurtling through space in underground tunnels. The soundtrack, elemental and atonal, gives compelling expression to their alienation.
Inspired by the techniques of musicians Robert Marcel Lepage and René Lussier, who worked at the time with sounds produced by a variety of machines, Pierre Hébert compiled a diversity of notes, photos and observational drawings to create this film about social behaviours in Montréal’s Métro. An unwillingness to engage, impermeability in the presence of others and the power of machinery are all themes in this reflection on urbanity as it reveals a ceaseless violence and forces the viewers to call their personal experiences into question. This work marked the beginning of Hébert’s series on places, and the real-life material he gathered for it would go on to define his imposing Places and Monuments series. The soundtrack for Songs and Dances of the Inanimate World – The Subway was developed through a series of public performances throughout the autumn of 1984. In the context of the director’s filmography, this urgently created film heralded his “directly scratched” animations to come, which culminated in La lettre d’amour and The Human Plant.
Executive director, Cinémathèque québécoise
Director of more than 40 films, including three features (The Human Plant, 1996, Bazin’s Film, 2017 and Mount Fuji Seen from a Moving Train, 2021), Pierre Hébert worked at the National Film Board of Canada from 1965 to 1999. He is now an independent artist and his filmmaking work has taken a multidisciplinary scope (live animation performances with musicians, video installations, collaboration with choreographers, drawing, and actions on the web). He has also published several books on cinema as well as two drawing books. Since 2010, he pursues his Places and Monuments project combining animation and documentary, for which he received the prestigious career grant of the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec in 2012 . In 2005, he was recipient of the Albert-Tessier Award for his complete works, and in 2018, he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by the Emily Carr University of Art and Design in Vancouver.