Arthur Lipsett (13 May 1936 – May 1, 1986) was a Canadian avant-garde director of short experimental films.
In the 1960s he was employed as an animator by the National Film Board of Canada. Lipsett’s particular passion was sound. He would collect pieces of sound and fit them together to create an interesting auditory sensation. After playing one of these creations to friends, they suggested that Lipsett put images to it. He did what his friends suggested, and the result became the 7 minute long film Very Nice, Very Nice which was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Short Subject, Live Action Subjects in 1962. Despite not winning the Oscar, this 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. Kubrick went on to direct the trailer himself; however, Lipsett’s influence on Kubrick is clearly visible when watching the trailer.
Lipsett’s film 21-87 was a profound influence on director George Lucas who included elements from 21-87 in THX 1138, his Star Wars films and also American Graffiti. The film 21-87 has been credited by Lucas as the source of the “The Force” in Star Wars.1. Lucas never met the filmmaker but tributes to 21-87 appear throughout Star Wars. For example, the holding cell of Princess Leia in Star Wars 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. He suffered from psychological problems, and was diagnosed with Manic Depression. He didn’t get support for new films, and quit National Film Board of Canada. His girlfriend left him, his friends abandoned him, and left without any financial or moral support, instead of his aunt, where he lived in the last days of his life. Lipsett committed suicide in 1986, two weeks shy of his 50th birthday. He hanged himself in Jewish Hospital on the early morning of 31 April.
Hors-d'oeuvre, 1960 (co-director and co-animator with Kaj Pindal, Gerald Potterton, Robert Verrall, Jeff Hale, Derek Lamb)
Men Against the Ice, Documentary 60/Frontiers series, 1960 (animator)
"CollPges classiques" in Quebec, 1961 (co-editor with Robert Verrall, Marc Beaudet)
Les Femmes parmi nous, 1961 (co-animator with Evelyn Lambart)
Opening Speech, 1960 (assistant director)
Experimental Film, 1963 (director; editor)
21-87, 1964 (director)
Regards sur l'occultisme (1re partie) - Magie et miracles, 1964 (co-editor with Guy L. Coté)
Regards sur l'occultisme (2e partie) - Science et esprits, 1964 (co-editor with Guy L. Coté)
Animal Altruism, Psychology Topics for Discussion Groups series, 1965 (director)
Animals and Psychology, Psychology Topics for Discussion Groups series, 1965 (director)
Fear and Horror, Psychology Topics for Discussion Groups series, 1965 (director)
Perceptual Learning, Psychology Topics for Discussion Groups series, 1965 (director)
The Puzzle of Pain, Psychology Topics for Discussion Groups series, 1965 (director)
A Trip down Memory Lane, 1965 (director; editor; co-producer with Donald Brittain)
The Continuing Past, 1966 (co-editor with Stephen Ford)
Time Capsule, 1967 (director; editor)
The Invention of the Adolescent, 1967 (editor; animator)
Imperial Sunset, 1967 (editor)
Data for Decision, 1968 (editor)
Fluxes, 1968 (director; editor; sound editor)
North, 1968 (editor)
Henry Zemel, Paul Leach, Wolf Koenig; (editor)
Strange Codes, 1974 (director)
Blue and Orange, 1977 (co-director and co-editor with Tanya Tree)
21-87 (Orig.) / 1964 / Canada / 9 min
This short film from Arthur Lipsett is an abstract succession of unrelated views of the passing crowd. A commentary on a machine-dominated society, it is often cited as an influence on George Lucas's Star Wars and his conceptualization of "The Force."