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Ballet Mécanique is a Dadaist film directed by Fernand Léger and Dudley Murphy with cinematography by Man Ray. The film premiered on 24 September 1924 in Vienna presented by Frederick Kiesler, later a world-famous architect. Meanwhile, Antheil’s music for Ballet Mécanique became a concert piece, premiered by Antheil himself in Paris in 1926. Although the film was intended to use Antheil’s score as a soundtrack, the two parts were not brought together until the 1990s.

In this film, Fernand Léger does some stop-action animation with a cut-out puppet that crudely resembles Chaplin’s Little Tramp character. This must have been somewhat confusing for French and Belgian audiences in 1924. In its original release, this film’s French title was “Charlot présente le ballet mécanique” … referring to showman Andre Charlot, who financed this film’s French distribution. But in France, Chaplin’s Little Tramp character was also known as Charlot … so the presence of that puppet in this movie must have seemed a cheat: an attempt to advertise a ‘Chaplin’ movie that doesn’t actually have Chaplin in it.

This is the first movie without scenario.


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