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Ballet Méchanique and film as art

by Kate Fortmueller

Ballet Mécanique rhythmically combines footage of machines and people. In some sequences the machines appear more fluid and graceful than the humans, who in some sequences (such as the woman climbing the stairs) become increasingly mechanized. Like many Dada projects this film is also quite playful with some of its juxtapositions. For example, the film opens with an abstracted animated figure that appears to be Charlie Chaplin (as indicated by his derby hat and cane). The next image is a title card proclaiming “Charlot présente le Ballet Méchanique.” While this card literally refers to producer André Charlot, “Charlot” is also the word for Chaplin’s character “the Tramp” in French (as well as Italian and Spanish). Consider this film in relation to our discussions of Dada, Surrealism and film as art. How does this film manifest many of the values of Surrealism?

Ballet Méchanique and film as art

by Kate Fortmueller

Ballet Méchanique rhythmically combines footage of machines and people. In some sequences the machines appear more fluid and graceful than the humans, who in some sequences (such as the woman climbing the stairs) become increasingly mechanized. Like many Dada projects this film is also quite playful with some of its juxtapositions. For example, the film opens with an abstracted animated figure that appears to be Charlie Chaplin (as indicated by his derby hat and cane). The next image is a title card proclaiming “Charlot présente le Ballet Méchanique.” While this card literally refers to producer André Charlot, “Charlot” is also the word for Chaplin’s character “the Tramp” in French (as well as Italian and Spanish). Consider this film in relation to our discussions of Dada, Surrealism and film as art. How does this film manifest many of the values of Surrealism?

Ballet Mécanique (1924)

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Fernand Léger's Ballet Mécanique alternates between human movements and images of machines that suggests the mechanization of humanity and the humanization of machines.

from Ballet Mécanique (1924)
Creator: Fernand Léger
Distributor: Kino International
Posted by Kate Fortmueller
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