Arthur Lipsett (May 13, 1936 – May 1, 1986) was a Canadian avant-garde director of short collage films.
Born in Montreal into a Jewish family, Lipsett saw his mother, an immigrant from Kiev, commit suicide when he was 10 years of age. His father remarried without consulting Arthur and his daughter, Marian. Despite his difficult past, Lipsett excelled as a student at the École des beaux-arts de Montréal, where his mentor, Arthur Lismer, recommended him to the National Film Board of Canada (NFB). Lipsett joined the NFB in 1958 as an editor.
Lipsett's particular passion was sound. He collected pieces of sound from a variety of sources and fit them together to create an interesting auditory sensation. After playing one of these creations to friends, they suggested that Lipsett combine images with the sound collage. The result is a 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 in the released trailer.
Lipsett's meticulous editing and combination of audio and visual montage was both groundbreaking and influential. His film 21-87 was a profound influence on director George Lucas, who used thematic approaches from 21–87 in THX 1138, his Star Wars films and also American Graffiti. Lucas has said that his use of the term the "The Force" in Star Wars was "an echo of that phrase in 21-87". Lucas never met Lipsett, but tributes to 21–87 appear in several places in 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.
In 1965, Lipsett completed A Trip Down Memory Lane, utilizing newsreel footage from over a fifty year period, and intended as a kind of cinematic time capsule.
Lipsett's success allowed him some freedom at the NFB, but as his films became more bizarre, this freedom quickly disappeared. In his later years, he suffered from psychological problems, including bipolar disorder, which progressed in severity. Lipsett committed suicide in 1986, two weeks before his 50th birthday.
Very Nice, Very Nice (1961)
Free Fall (1964)
Strange Codes (1974)