Inspired by Norman McLaren, contemporary Canadian filmmaker Richard Reeves set out to find new ways to create color and depth effects in his myriad direct film efforts. As a member of Calgary’s Quickdraw Animation Society, Reeves was able to see films by abstract filmmakers such as Fischinger, Mary Ellen Bute, Ruttmann, Belson, and the Whitney brothers. Reeves experimented with painting on both sides of the film, a technique that he discovered “can create a type of depth of field because the projector will only focus on the top of the film’s surface, leaving a slightly out-of-focus background.” Reeves shares Lye’s lifelong interest in automatic writing and drawing and adopted a Surrealist mode for Linear Dreams (1997), employing a host of techniques including “airbrush, bleach, various scratch tools, markers, inks, and painting techniques to create textures, colors and images on black, clear and ‘orange’ (processed negative) film stocks” to illustrate his shifting whims.
As the title indicates, Reeves constructed the film as he went along, and the film features a suitably oneiric procession of hand-drawn planets, mandalas, and biomorphic figures, as well as a handmade soundtrack modeled after McLaren’s signature pitter-patter percussion and glissando runs. Reeves explains his conception of handmade film as a play between narrative and subjective associative thinking: “I have found that even the free-flowing films of cameraless animation produce a story or journey: It is the very nature of our thoughts.”