Music by George Antheil. Film by Fernand Leger and Dudley Murphey.
In a period when dance historians are industriously re-creating significant “lost ” works, CalArts forces have made an oblique contribution with the restoration of “Ballet Mecanique,” the landmark Dada film by Dudley Murqhy, Fernand Leger and Man Ray, with music by George Antheil.
The results of the cinematic effort led by William Moritz, were shown for the first time Monday as part of a Green Umbrella concert at the Japan America Theatre by the ever-intrepid New CalArts 20th-Century Players.
An abstract, surreal mini-epic of kaleidoscopic images, “Ballet Mecanique” has a tangled history, marked by uncertainties about individual contributions and blurred by Leger’s re-edited versions. The music intended for the film also actually intersected with it only in intermittent fashion. Ironically, the Green Umbrella presentation matched the attempt to restore the original visual intentions with Antheil’s final revision of the score, made 28 years after the film was first shown in 1924.
The union of sight and sound seemed more organic at some points than at others, but Antheil caught the manic rhythm of the film quite successfully. The combination proved surprisingly fresh and vital Monday, with Stephen Mosko conducting a tight, hard hitting performance of the brash score beneath the witty endlessly inventive images, in a remarkable triumph of imagination over the limitations of primitive technology.
John Henken, The Los Angeles Times, May 10, 1989
Dedicated to the memory of Stephen “Lucky” Mosko (1947-2005), and William Moritz (1941-2004).