Music and Abstraction

The rhythmic elements of cinema are explored by artists and filmmakers fascinated by the abstract qualities of light. The American authors of avant-garde classics Le Retour á la raison (1923), Ballet mécanique (1923-24), Anémic cinéma (1926), and Une Nuit sur le Mont Chauve (1934), are finally acknowledged for their seminal artistic achievements made in Europe. Pioneer abstract films by Ralph Steiner, Mary Ellen Bute, Douglass Crockwell, Dwinnell Grant, and George Morris are compared and contrasted with Hollywood montages created by Ernst Lubitsch, Slavko Vorkapich, and Busby Berkeley. For the first time on video, composer George Antheil's original 1924 score accompanies Fernand Léger and Dudley Murphy's film Ballet mécanique, a truly avant-garde cacophony of image and sound.

Le Retour à la raison (1923)—Man Ray
Ballet mécanique (1923-24)—Fernand Léger & Dudley Murphy
Anémic cinéma (1924-26)—Rrose Sélavy (Marcel Duchamp)
Looney Lens: Anamorphic People (1927)—Al Brick
Out of the Melting Pot (1927)—W.J. Ganz Studio
20 (1929)—Ralph Steiner
Surf and Seaweed (1929-30)—Ralph Steiner
7 Vorkapich Montage Sequences (1928-37)—Slavko Vorkapich
    The Furies (1934)
    Skyline Dance (1928)
    Money Machine (1929)
    Prohibition (1929)
    The Firefly— Vorkapich edit (1937)
    The Firefly—MGM release version (1937)
    Maytime (1937)
So This Is Paris (1926)—Ernst Lubitsch (excerpt)
Light Rhythms (1930)—Francis Bruguière & Oswell Blakeston
Une Nuit sur le Mont Chauve (Night on Bald Mountain) (1934)—Alexandre Alexeieff & Claire Parker
Rhythm in Light (1934)—Mary Ellen Bute, Ted Nemeth & Melville Webber
Synchromy No. 2 (1936)—Mary Ellen Bute & Ted Nemeth
Parabola (1937)—Mary Ellen Bute & Ted Nemeth
Footlight Parade - "By a Waterfall" (1933)—Busby Berkeley
Glen Falls Sequence (1937-46)—Douglass Crockwell
Simple Destiny Abstractions (1937-40)—Douglass Crockwell
Abstract Movies (1937-47)—George L.K. Morris
Scherzo (1939)—Norman McLaren
Themis (1940)—Dwinell Grant
Contrathemis (1941)—Dwinell Grant
1941 (1941)—Francis Lee
Moods of the Sea (1940-42)—Slavko Vorkapich & John Hoffman

Year: 1923-1942
Running time: 168 minutes
Contents: 29 Films
Format: B/W & Color;
Sound & Silent
Region: 0
Available as part of 7-disc box set

Buy Now

"The percussive jangling of Antheil’s pounding piano and occasional siren blast accentuate Ballet Mécanique’s piston-gear motion and make this venerable avant-garde piece seem nearly new."
—The Village Voice

UNSEEN CINEMA: LIGHT RHYTHMS is one of a seven-DVD series exploring American avant-garde cinema from 1894-1941. Presented by Anthology Film Archives in association with the British Film Institute, Cineric, Film Preservation Associates, Deutsches Filmmuseum, George Eastman House, The Library of Congress, and The Museum of Modern Art.

"Labels prove inadequate when moviemakers are motivated not by financial profit or high-culture ambition, but by sheer love of moving pictures—and driving curiosity about all things this versatile medium can accomplish."
—The Christian Science Monitor

"Unseen Cinema offers viewers a rare look at the work of one of the first American abstract animators and one of the first woman to enter a filed dominated by male artists."
—Los Angeles Times on Mary Ellen Bute

Films preserved by
Anthology Film Archives
Centre National du Cinéma
Det Danske Filminstitut
Douris Corporation
Film Preservation Associates
George Eastman House
Larson-Casselton Collection
The Museum of Modern Art
National Film Board of Canada
Turner Entertainment Co.
University of South Carolina Newsfilm Archive
Warner Bros. Entertainment, Inc.

Music by
George Antheil
Eric Beheim
Marc Blitzstein
Jack Ellitt
Paul D. Lehrman
Guy Livingston
Shane Ryan
Donald Sosin

Notes by
Aram Boyajian
Kevin Brownlow
David Curtis
Susan Delson
Douglas Dreishpoon
Deke Dusinberre
R. Bruce Elder
Gregory Jay Galligan
Jan-Christopher Horak
Rogger Horrocks
Paul D. Lehrman
Scott MacDonald
Bruce Posner
David Shepard
Cecile Starr

Curated by Bruce Posner
Produced for DVD by David Shepard
Released by Image Entertainment

Sponsored by Anthology Film Archives, New York, and Deutsches Filmmuseum, Frankfurt am Main.
Made possible in part by Cineric, Inc., Eastman Kodak Company, and Film Preservation Associates, Inc.

The Firefly © 1937
Footlight Parade © 1933 Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Maytime © 1937 Metro Goldwyn Mayer, Corp.
Scherzo © National Film Board of Canada
So This Is Paris © 1926 Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.

Special Contents of this Edition © 2005 by Anthology Film Archives