FANTASTIC FEST: Ballet Mecanique (1924)

A Dadaist post-Cubist art film conceived, written and co-directed by Fernand Léger in collaboration with the filmmaker Dudley Murphy with cinematographic input from Man Ray, Balley Mecanique is as gorgeous and groundbreaking today as it was nearly a hundred years ago.

Flashes of images — a young woman and a smile are all the humanity we get before the swirling and whirling world of technology takes over, as concentric circles of objects spin, pistons and gears do their mechanical dance, cars keep driving and even carnival rides push and pull and keep on moving. This world is always in motion, repeating over and over again.

George Antheil wrote the original score for this film, but his music was thirty minutes long while the film is only sixteen. At first — and for many years — it played without that original score. The first time they actually played together wasn’t until 2000, when Paul Lehrman presented a version that featured both the score and the visuals.

The version that played Fantastic Fest has the score interpreted by House of Waters, which features “Jimi Hendrix of Hammered Dulcimer” Max ZT, Moto Fukushim and Ignacio Rivas Bixio.

Fantastic Fest @ Home is featuring a series of silent films reimagined with the music of five artists from GroundUp music. Beyond this film, there’s also Aelita: Queen of Mars with a score by Snarky Puppy’s Chris Bullock, Sirintip rescoring The Lost World, PRD Mais taking on Waxworks, Bob Lanzetti covering Nosferantu and House of Waters playing music for MenilmontantLe Voyage dans la Lune and Ballet Mecanique.

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