Academy-Award-winning short by Scottish-Canadian NFB director/animator Norman McLaren, Neighbours stages a surreal, deadly fight between two men for the ownership of a shared piece of (flourishing) land. By admission of McLaren himself, the short functions as an allegory of the Korean War and of the Cold War more broadly, but can be also read—as Thomas Waugh suggests—as a reflection on male insecurities and homosocial dynamics emerged in post-War Western culture. Analyzing Neighbours in relation to McLaren’s later work, Waugh observes that “the male-male combat in pixillated form operates in fact less as a sparring match than as a modernist same-sex pas de deux” (2006, 43) thus establishing a link between the film and other subtextually queer shorts such as A Chairy Tale (1957) and Narcissus (1983). This corpus is inscribed into a wider history of silenced queerness in the NFB’s production from the Cold War period (1945-60), and replaces the total expulsion of queer representation with an allegorical, gender-ambiguous take on geopolitics and manhood in crisis. More than sixty years after its making, the camp metaphor in Neighbours still holds its relevance, and remains “a textbook articulation of the regimes of masculinity that arose in the aftermath of war” (Waugh 2006, 33).
Issues & Themes:
Academy of Motion Picture Best Short