Fernand Léger. Ballet mécanique. 1924
Fernand Léger

Ballet mécanique

1924
Not on view
Medium
35mm film (black and white, silent)
Duration
12 min.
Credit
Film in the permanent collection of The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Object number
38724
Copyright
© 2015 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris
Department
Film

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. The objects photographed by Dudley Murphy, an American photographer and filmmaker, are transformed by the camera and by the editing rhythms and juxtapositions. 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. The dynamic qualities of film and its capacity to express the themes of a kinetic 20th-century reach a significant level of accomplishement in this early masterpiece of modern art.

Publication excerpt from Circulating Film Library Catalogue, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 1984, p. 167

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Image permissions

In order to effectively service requests for images, The Museum of Modern Art entrusts the licensing of images of works of art in its collections to the agencies Scala Archives and Art Resource. As MoMA’s representatives, these agencies supply high-resolution digital image files provided to them directly by the Museum's imaging studios.

All requests to reproduce works of art from MoMA's collection within North America (Canada, U.S., Mexico) should be addressed directly to Art Resource at 536 Broadway, New York, New York 10012. Telephone (212) 505-8700; fax (212) 505-2053; requests@artres.com; artres.com. Requests from all other geographical locations should be addressed directly to Scala Group S.p.A., 62, via Chiantigiana, 50012 Bagno a Ripoli/Firenze, Italy. Telephone 39 055 6233 200; fax 39 055 641124; firenze@scalarchives.com; scalarchives.com.

Requests for permission to reprint text from MoMA publications should be addressed to text_permissions@moma.org.

Related links:
Outside North America: Scala Archives
North America: Art Resource