le Ballet Mecanique..un film de Fernand Leger
First of all, —or third of all, rather..thirdly, ahem! permit me to observe that some things – if not all things – cannot be translated meaningfully, can only be rendered, –this, for example: the Ballet Mechanic. The literal translation gets you>some guy comes out of the shop in a leotard clutching his wrench in a greasy mitt and looks at your motor..some guy, perhaps Cheech y Chong, a.k.a., Alice Bowie! tu-tu’d, multi-kulture’d famous inventor..of the stationary chopper–cycle>allows one satisfied customer to identify with the Easy Rider persona-mystique and all other diversities, while never giving up the comforts of couch and living-room; and snacks! bagging it down the open highway, your oyster, baby! boppily brilliant, –legendary, in your mind and altogether too cool..thee life! eschewing establishment squares, war-pigs and all of the rest..sleeping under stars; and yet, very narrow in commercial appeal, somehow..all too narrow, in other words, pure art. Mssr. Chong comes readily to mind whenever the caustic subject of performance art is injected in any conversation about the medium..which is, of course, the message (we all knew that); not dissimilar in its potent, pressurized delivery-apparatus’s convenient capability to invade the human psyche* (like your long-awaited YARDSALE opened after weeks of trepidation, at last! and visited, immediately, by mongol hoards, —early birds on horseback flashing scimitars, as, simultaneously – sky’s the limit in a poem about yard-sale’s – witness the arrival, on wheels, of viking ships, shields adorning..crews and warlord, flourishing axes, carving their own parking out of the driveway, ass end extended to the far curb and onto the neighbors’ lawns..by the mail-box, additively) *is spoken words, which opens an expansive list of expressive opportunities to be..or not to be considered in any comprehensive analysis of media influence on the western experience; such as Son of Word-jazz‘s dear, own the VIDIOT,-prince, and favorite goldentonsiled offspring, Ken Nordine (a.k.a., Mister “I’m the voice that says POOF! there goes..perspiration!”), and his distant cousin, Night-of-storytelling-around-a-campfire,for-the-lads..sped in time, to young manhood, lit! bonding, with nurturing leaderships’ Judeo-Christian values t’sharing, in flickering lights ‘gainst the pitch-black darkness..illuminating vague shapes that became monsters, as flames, rising, go this way and that, ceremonially taking on lives of their own, ghosts! good, bad&ugly adding fuel to bonfire’s brief Jovian existence, snuffed out! by that ounce of cautionary, adult common-sense prevention..to ensure (there will be) continuity of tribal survival and the preservation of habitats, for future boys to come..and whittle. Also, the same sun rises..some generations later, on a charred remains telling of a previous evening’s magical entertainments dipping in waters of cultural mythologies’ amnesia’s; and toilet-papers! sent, with love, from home and diverted for an artistic purpose, –skits! engaging, in occultic practices..an audience spellbound, –I sing the body, geriatric, gerbilles in all walks of life..of a people congealed in its own ingrained glories, to Rome! –dancing war-whoops! backed by slender trees, swaying moonrise, sinuous, dissolving..in morning eucalyptus mists; and, day 3! trip by school-bus to..The Sound Museum!
MOTHLIGHT Stan Brakhage, 1963..pre-merry-prankster’s, –in contrast, a dusty, free-spirited document from the vault of human ingenuity and Hollywood reject’s, occupies the mind for a brief existence, mimicking its culturally appropriated subject..staring simian orbs’ mirror reflections, –our headlights, our selves! held captive to the artist’s vision, arrived at by overexposure to poetry..of Pound when a youth; and, next internalized then rendered, with the artist’s almost casual involvement, through the agency of found organic material physically stapled between strips of clear celluloid and photo-lab’d into prints, verbatim, –rather than translated, in an obvious throwback to the primordial photography studios’ oozes of yore, extracting from the tar pits, curatable lunchable artifacts left by the first generation’s photo-chemical pioneers – pre-covered wagon – selecting green, leafy matter, flora, etc., and interlacing (them) with any other convenient translucent materials, taken for their desirable gossamer qualities; plus, whatever works! pressing collages between sun and plates – like a flower, preserved flat within a book’s pages – coated with varying kustom photo-sensitive tinctures to try, aiming for best results, in the which, discovering images having a wonderfully shallow illusion of depth, —suggesting, in the mind’s eye, a kind of specious photo-graphic truth, presented, in an off-handed..oh, baroque expressionists’ manner (there’s prob’ly a standard term known to art critics)..his labours’ enduring products, –photographically captured snap’s, burn-in’s of recognizable natural objects, i.e., leaf skeletons, mixed with manufactured see-through articles – add some opaque stuff – rendered, in a latter day, pre-modern age of enlightenment..Junior X-ray lab set-up –so to speak. To sum up it’s all about leaves, –(Great! now make like a tree and leaf..ahem!) The similarity in ideas, here, with Leger’s work, is spot-lighted in the approach to unlocking the sub-conscious through the intentional abandonment of personal preferences, the scuttling of any aesthetic demands in favor of a blind, grab-bag grocery-list ob-wanna-bees..following an arbitrary canon dictating what’s next, — a technique analogous to that hailed, as the wave of the future, by enthusiastic creators of modern music (the ones you probably don’t want to hear) through uses of various deviant dictatorial pre-determining devices, –lock and load! such as dropping a string, then getting a good read on the entrails, laying there, and – by literal translation – arbitrarily pushing the creation of incidental/accidental sonic outcomes to a logical conclusion..for contemplations, –moody at best, in most cases; and an unguided tour in white/black/grey noise in all of the rest (I mean..I MEAAN! speaking for those of us sittin’ here, –sittin’ on the bench marked Group W, –for us, now and then in a blue moon it feels like a John Cage kinda day; but most others I, eh, ahem! would prefer a little Hank Williams or Schubert or Mozart, for my money; and some sherbet, too, please..Shekinah!) And, jumping the time-line ahead, musically..Its/His/ IS! (defined) history repeating itself, –again! as, with a cheery, though inexplicable docileness (without comment), man surrenders to hip-hop&rap artistries‘ politics minus the genius of THE LAST POETS –quick! hopping off! the dizzy, revolving, stunningly lush..ante-deluvian spectral progressions of traditional>jazz>swing>western swing>rock-a-billy/be-bop>country-to-psychedelic-rock’n’roll-jazz-blues’d fusions; and a legacyplethora of soul enabling performance styles, cracked by the since long-deceased drivers of a collective heartbeat, sounding from an underworld..wall of sound, the pulse! preserved in wax..like a flower pressed inside pages of a dusty volume, in time; you wouldn’t know to hear (and they wonder why civilization’s on the skids! SHEESH), time,TIME! to change all the clocks and locks, tic-toc! tic-toc! and yes, the melting clocks/clocks melting; accompanied by the strong, uncategorizable impression of getting bath water up your nose, Lefty! –low, and a little to the inside, clear it out, tomorrow, borrow..Finnegan’s,s-s-s..snake, hwen I wake,oy! —ADEE DO! “STEE-EER-RIKE!!”
Ok..Irregardless of circumstances, the advent of cinematic form, one way or another, got us the Hollywood narrative..and the Hollywood community! spawned by energetic American geniuses, of that peculiar type of entrepeneurial wunderkinder..untermensch, –a race of melancholy men, as fascinated with seeing new stuff as they were with getting rich quickly by whatever means; whereas the europeans seem to have processed the arrival of the new art, its meaning and latent possibilities a bit differently..through the lens of an older, more discerning culture, clamouring, not for moolah! but refinements, yeah? (they’re europeans, you know). Ballet Mecanique points the gun of imagination at its captive audience not so crudely as does Porter’s The Great Train Robbery, in aiming its literal six-shooter directly at the camera, scattering viewers, terrified! diving..not accustomed to the perceived realism of an event caused by sequences of projected still photographs serially machine-gunning the brain*, (–as, with equal/unequal crudity, a vaguely similar thing is accomplished – I mentioned it earlier – in Stan ‘Wind-the-camera-and-throw-it-off-the-cliff,-it’s-art!’ Brakhage’s Mothlight..by forcing a series of neuro-chemical events, in the cerebrum, uncorked by the steady bombardment – at 18 fps – of found objects’ direct prints governed by no particular rules, presented, as-is? like a true poet) *–producing an objective illusion of motion wrought by a fresh technology, –hot-tarred on bare white shoulders of the new industrial goddess, –mass entertainment! which, as we know, threw everything for a loop..as in vintage praxinoscope-loop (no privacy, there! if you’re seeing it on youtube; probably even the very eccentric Reynaud, –Emile, himself and father of Disney would have been floored, momentarily, at the sight&sound of it, “KLINKETY-KLANKETY!” fully automated waking consciousness replica, larger than life animation’s, electro-mechanically projected onto a flat screen, –arc! of the welder’s rod, blazing behind celluloid, before a box of chocolates, seated, stuffed with multi-colored eyes, –mostly brown, I’m betting, “Cough! cough!” smell the smoke..movies
Movies are a time-machinE..E=2-D+3-D=.========,–?TV=MiltonBerlE=Emcee.sq‘uare)
Whosoever! the artists of Europe..painters, playwrights, circus performers, and the like, qualified immigrants, all..poets, even! – sandwich’d between two apocalyptic wars, one, only recently settled, and the other, just ahead and down the hall – seeking, ever, for a novel way to mesmerize patrons, –and seeing it! gave the new medium some fresh eyes (literally); and for the jaded art lovers, some food for thought. On this social phenomenon, one word..Freud. Freud and his couch. And Vienna, or Wien, –those europeans! they have their own word for everything, they speak and understand English perfectly, you know it! but just it’s utterly beneath their dignity’s to stoop so low and engage in it with us American’s especially the French! Selavvy!Rrose..her fingerprints are all over it, –stars in the Mechanical Ballet picture, ?I think..perhaps. It opens on a ?female? (everything we know here’s called in ?question??) seated on a swing, swinging (so far, so good), angle is appealing..calls up WOODSTOCK, free love, flower-power babes, ala Lily Langtree, –all of that (Lola Montez)..this is what cameras were invented for! ‘ow-eh-vehr, –and this is where it gets..psychological (?can you smell the cigars,taste the cocaine tainted fluids, dripping inside the nose cavities, perceive..a vague numbness? A-D DO! hear the thick, Wien-sausage dialect that goes, hand-in-hand, with the patently authentic, unchallenged interpretation of a human’s nightly sojourn..throughout a long, winter’s night, right? Well, –) The easy action with the woman on a swing is here brought to a grinding, screeching point of termination with..the CUT TO a downward angle/suspended camera view, ala Foucault’s pendulum,x2, our minds’ eyes..in a blink! now overhead gazing down on our winsome subject, whose eyes – which..are like limpid pools – return an implied parody of seduction (counter-part to Boyer’s? “Meet me in thee Cas-bah!” all of that?), the shift in perspective throwing everything double out-of-whack in contrary motions, which, though singularly satisfying in a musical setting, and etiquette of the road, do tend to be jarringly disorienting in the cinematic..environs, –CUT TO: HERE, I, on a night of a blue moon, –literally (rippling shadows bathed in computerlight’s glow); and, me, personally, noticing the appearance, on my right, of another sentient smaller being than me, seeking for companionship, –I..myself, turn the screen holding these images, to the white, mostly white and somewhat muscular, but partially flabby, with soft, rabbit-white fur..cat! at my elbow (and a dark tail) to gage his impression of the ART..both of us at the table or on the table as the case might be; and it grabs his attention, –held captive! le cat, by the black&white play of images, m&m’s, –like, campfire flickers! so,like, here, back with Boy Scouts of America there is witnessed to some degree, by an animal, le animal kitabu! the effective results on consciousness (generally) of Leger’s approach to manipulation of the plastic medium called cinema (european cinema, vs. vulgar Hollywood), for, by i t he has grabbed a cat..by its black tail! *(In all fairness, though, to ME! –mice-elf, I..I could probably engender a similar level of titillation easily! by capturing the movements of the cats and the dog in our chambers, changing stations through the course of a night, stirring from my satisfying sleep, to instead, be shooting infra-red, yo –Me! cinematographer-auteur-somnambulisto, –with the SONY camcorder, there, in everybody’s face, a southern california..Fellini! phenomenal..and probably wind up tripping over one of them, the cats, while trying to stay focused on maintaining an acceptable level of artistic quality, in process of controlling elements of what’s inside the frame..Guhh! half-awake, not noticing my own rebel feet taking me suddenly to the floor with a perfunctoryTHUD! and quite likely breaking the camera, lighting gizmo’s, etc., kit and le boodle. I would probably make art out of that, too, no doubt..If it ever happened (it’s all in the re-edit); but I digressed! alright..Who’s next?)
So! to return, the tomato on a swing is now become –Apollyon! for us at least, a taunting teasing vixenish countenance of, –cabaret singer or circus performer – whichever (poet?) – un-horsed! of the swing, as all breaks loose, –labour-forces’ marching feet..mechanized everything multiplied kaleidoscopically, eyes..teeth! inclosed in made-up lips so haltingly BLACK you can wake up from your hypnosis in a dark, impressionable pocket, prone! and smell the to-dive-for cigars’ butt’s, tossed – by the prosperously-dressed, somewhat dour gentleman, clearly up-tight..seated, carriage erect, in the chair appraising you curiously you may have noticed..through his pince-nez – cigar-butts, marking a measure of time, tossed! unceremoniously onto the unswept wood floor by the edge of a Persian rug; and then up, a little, to the leather couch, presently occupied, –he, or she (not nude!), reclining on the proprietary button-tuck (buttons of brass!) specialty item of kustom order furniture, manufactured and sold exclusively! for its intended use as a maximum efficiency psychiatric office vehicle, a dream machine, expressly designed for the comfort and convenience of a subject..or subjects!desirous to have a rendering, or, an interpretation, rather, of his or her (or their) nocturnal sub-supraconscious episodes, –or dreams..and willing to pay! stuffed with horse hair supported by good european quality coil-springs, –and a guarantee! affording her..or him..THEM! a relaxing view, tilting down from the ceiling, and angling onto a legion or two..dozens of framed certificates, smothering walls in shadow, helped by gaslight, certifying you are in the hands of a certified brain genius..about to certify YOU, –well! all of these dissolves and tricks we see in Ballet have gone on, to the pallets of visual artists everywhere down the line in the histoire du cinema, from Fritz Lang (shades of METROPOLIS) to Nicholas Roeg’s celebrated ‘everything and the kitchen-sink’ tool-box of cinematic tricks, including, for example, his double exposure moving-picture portraits of seated subjects..in this instance, hooligans, with hidden gifts..brushed over lightly, in TV-blues, revealing a certain condition of the heart..spiritual darkness lurking beneath bland smiles, and STOP! shot of the jury having facts represented, in a case of a highly-charged political nature, by a clever defense attorney, cross-dissolves with rows of patrons in a seedy movie-house, viewing a blue film, on a scene portraying a concept for justice..blinded by smut, roughly mirroring edits in ‘M’ earliest of the ‘soundies’ –(excepting THE JAZZ SINGER,#1). Again, we are shown what, in our casual waking hours we accept as all of it, in contradistinction with what is lying in wait, under cover in the spirit realm (and all of the rest). The only thing left after this is the giant squid fight..but we’ll come to that. The point, here, where we shall dwell, is What do europeans thinK? what’s their bag??, in other words, you know? They are not like us, we are not..THEM! (though obviously we can all succumb to that same horrifying and grisly end of being masticated alive..and sweating! by pods of giant atomic ant mutations out for sugar in the middle of the Nevada summer desert, –but RELAX! it’s a dry heat..so don’t freek).
Now where were we? oh! yes, here we are standing on sticky carpet before the soda head, surveying movie-palaces’ grandeur, overhead, in line at the snack-bar, –purchasing SKITTLES and JUJUBES..and pop-corn and COKE! plus a skinny juicy hot-dog on a spit, bathing under the heat-spot’s, smothered in mustard and pickle-relish on a bun..and catsup! between screenings of The Great Brain Robbery, and hit co-feature, UN CHIEN ANDALOU, –second-of-all, with a tango, So! (Wagner, notwithstanding) so, — BALLET (mechanical) among many doors opened on a room full of mirrors – by suggestion – takes us on its flickery flight of fancy?over a landscape garden of infinite possible musicalities and samples (besides what’s offered), to suture on the images, and add spice..thought processes, hovering over alternate choices, banks of audio that may be swapped-out, to blunt consciousness, and/or implode brainwaves! as synapses, sympathetic, –shudders all a-flutter, spontaneously undulate, uh —DANCE TO THE MUSIC? sensibly altering perceptions, associations by the, –inputing of the funky sensory data-?overload of any given musical substitution’s interior fine qualities (x=why) dumped unintentionally on the filmgoers’ personal movie experience, –cut&paste job, whether a film depicting a straightforward plebeian single event, as in White Christmas‘s spectacular production number, MANDY, *–suggestion: mute the choruses on the original movie soundtrack in exchange for throaty, whispered groanings of a B-3 jazzy Hammond organ under the influence of a master’s touch..bluesman, in dialogue with a cool tenor sax-player’s meaty, theological chops, –‘n’throbbing Leslie‘s, spinning ear-candy like gold! top and bottom, like, down to 12 or 08 Hz coming across from a parallel galaxy of stellar oceanic wonders..saturnine stereo out of a vacuum tube hi-fi build, purple light! –source, picked at random, drawn off the liberry onna wall, wall-paper’d with treasures..eons of collected, selected vinyl, –walla-walla! results? you’re the genius, auteur, creator or what-ever..whatever you picked, if it worked, you own it (if not, you can always excuse yourself later..”I’m so sorry I picked that! Please! excuse me!!”); *or! take the nascent, trez art–house edit-convention of montage, as cut-together in Eisenstein’s appropriation of D.W. Griffith’s Brahminic brainchild, THE BIRTH OF A NATION..notice: in contra-distinction to the clips of mounted Klansmen, and all of the rest of it..baby-stroller bumping, slo-mo, down Odessa’s steps, INSERT..sabre slashes..look of horror, the broken glasses, horseback Kossacks, horses..restless, poised, now pawing, begin: bloody massacre on ALICE! ala Zhivago, –Guthrie In Hippieland. Running with that ball of wax you get a cuter slant on the movies than you ever imagined you would if you have tolerance at all to shift from a Hollywood conventional mental outlook/paradigm, obeying rules, take it as it comes..for no good reason and CHILL! simply by turning down the TV-sound on the usual late-night feed over-the-air, from a local licensee, of, gosh! say, a re-re-broadcast of the classic KING KONG, –and substituting the title track to ALICE’S RESTAURANT, Arlo up there doing his Rudy Vallee number..yeah! dominating and outshining the dandyish ape’s misbehavin’s, by overlaying the new hippie national anthem and original Vietnam protest, claiming – in the name of the queen, and all your queen buddies there on the couch, what’s-‘is-name – absolute personal autonomy, smack! dab in square society, GROUND ZER0, throwing off all yokes of oppression installed since ‘straights’ first took over everything (?maybe this only works if you’re having a grande pot-party soiree, plus registering everyone to vote..MCGOVERN ’72 –open house! in Frisco, ––Come on?), and teaming that with the clip of Fay Wray’s assisted ascent – ostensibly against her will- up the north face of the Empire State Building – being incessantly harassed by hostile vintage military aircraft – while camped securely inside a swarthy, hairy, warm and friendly giant hand..which, by the way, is a metaphor, in the language of cinema, meaning gondola. Here, the sultry, psychologically numbing first sudden impact of Harryhausen<Melies<Reynaud, is beat, in intensity, only by..JAWS! for which we shall have to wait, patiently, nearly half of a century, to get, –“Oh! the humanity!” (Where’s my yoga-mat?)
..for all its mass-gifting of moviemaking tools to future generations of visual story-tellers, many of BALLET‘s cinematic devices are uncomplicated. It is the carefully controlled lighting and other quiet, behind-the-scenes production elements, along with Man Ray’s genius for the golden image that make the presentation of mannequin parts – choreographed – such a pleasantly enticing, and oddly sexy experience (recalling, by the bye, an experimental animation film hailing from Poland somewhere in the 60’s, entitled “Concert of M. Caballe” (can’t find, take – in lieu of – my RHINOCEROS..Please!) with similar eviscerations done on the principal, and similarly comprehending the work of Busby Berkeley at his best, –the dream, fantastique! but on a lower budget). And, among other post-hypnotic suggestions ginned up by the Ballet, is its impression, in one of the clips, of the in-motion, spinning outer carriage of a praxinoscope, — miracle contraption! for the parlour, or smoking room, to amuse..guests, in which animation-loops, either a series of photographs or drawings, on strips, are placed, then rotated, before an arrangement of mirrors at center, facing outwards, which, when gazed upon render for the viewer the original primordial experience of the first motion picture or animated image generating device, the very human thing that drives us all nuts! (persistence of vision, why we’re here). Oh! if I could go on and on..You, no doubt, by NOW appreciate that. So! and, like, don’t leave out without a mention, at least, of the clip of..the stout woman, and her burden she shoulders – captured under the camera – mid-motion, looking up, ascending, from about the middle of a flight of stairs, the unfortunate recipient of somebody else’s deja vu’s..repeatedly! ARS GRATIA ARTIS..stop me before I..EDIT again! but, here, let’s call it a day, –or render, rather