Sunday, 11 November 2007

(MAY 13) Born on this day: Arthur Lipsett

Photo: © 1978 Lois Siegel, used by permission; text adapted from Wikipedia.

The Canadian avant-garde director of short experimental films Arthur Lipsett was born on 13 May 1936. His particular passion was sound: he would collect pieces of sound and fit them together to create interesting auditory sensations, and friends suggested that Lipsett put images to them. The result became the seven minute-long 1961 film Very Nice, Very Nice which was nominated for an Academy Award in 1962. Despite not winning the Oscar the film brought Lipsett considerable praise from critics and directors. Stanley Kubrick was one of Lipsett’s fans and asked him to create a trailer for his upcoming movie Dr. Strangelove; Lipsett declined Kubrick’s offer, however Lipsett’s influence on Kubrick is clearly visible when watching the trailer.

Lipsett’s later film 21-87 was a profound influence on director George Lucas who included elements from it in THX-1138, his Star Wars films and also American Graffiti; 21-87 is also said to be the source of the “The Force” in Star Wars. Lucas never met Lipsett but tributes to 21-87 appear throughout Star Wars, for example the holding cell of Princess Leia in Episode IV: A New Hope on the Death Star is cell no. 2187.

Lipsett’s success allowed him some freedom, but as his films became more bizarre this freedom quickly disappeared and he suffered from psychological problems. Lipsett committed suicide in 1986, two weeks shy of his 50th birthday.