because we all need to dream a little

Ballet mécanique by Fernand Léger, music by George Anthiel. 35 mm film (black and white). The Museum of Modern Art, New York City, NY.

From MOMA’s website:

This film remains one of the most influential experimental works in the history of cinema. The only film made directly by the artist Fernand Léger, it demonstrates his concern during this period—shared with many other artists of the 1920s—with the mechanical world. In Léger’s vision, however, this mechanical universe has a very human face. […] In Ballet méchanique, repetition, movement, and multiple imagery combine to animate and give an aesthetic raison d’être to the clockwork structure of everyday life. The visual pleasures of kitchenware—wire whisks and funnels, copper pots and lids, tinned and fluted baking pans—are combined with images of a woman carrying a heavy sack on her shoulder, condemned like Sisyphus (but through a cinematic sense of wit) to climb and reclimb a steep flight of stairs on a Paris street.

Anthiel was the one musician whom the Surrealists accepted. He said, “The Surrealist movement had, from the very beginning, been my friend. In one of its manifestoes it had been declared that all music was unbearable – excepting, possibly, mine – a beautiful and appreciated condescension.”1 Anthiel’s score was intended to accompany the film; however, the score was thirty minutes long, while the film was about nineteen. The premier of the film didn’t include the score. It was never shown with Anthiel’s music until the 1990s.

  1. George Anthiel, Bad Boy of Music (New York: Da Capo Press, 1981), 300; quoted in Anne LeBaron, “Reflections of Surrealism in Postmodern Music,” Studies in Contemporary Music and Culture: Postmodern Music / Postmodern Thought 4 (2002), 31.