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Ballet mécanique, 1923-1924

Fernand Léger
French, 1881 - 1955
16 mm b/w silent film, 14:00 minutes
Purchased 1976
National Gallery of Canada (no. 30972)

Ballet mécanique comprises a relentless stream of rapidly cut images, many of which are mechanical and repetitive, offering only a few moments of solitude in a garden. The viewer catches brief glimpses of pistons and conveyor belts, swinging Christmas ornaments, saucepan covers, hats, mannequin legs and geometric shapes among others. Léger and his cinematographers used new techniques and equipment such as the extreme close-up view and the kaleidoscopic lens, and powerfully juxtaposed images, speeds and rhythms. The result is a cinematic counterpart to Léger's pictorial emphasis on contrasting forms as in his nearby painting The Mechanic.

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