A Year in Shorts Day 336: "Ballet Robotique"

Yesterday we covered Norm McLaren’s Pas de deux, a beautiful, trippy, ballet-themed short. Well today we’re talking about Bob Rogers’ Ballet Robotique… a beautiful, trippy, ballet-themed short. Boy am I good at scheduling or what? Still, there is one crucial difference between the shorts- this one’s about robots! (As you no doubt gleaned from the title. Look, let's just get into it!)

"There aren't really many good images for this film available online, so you'll just have to make do with me, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky instead. You may recognize me from that one segment in Disney's Fantasia that isn't as iconic as 'The Sorcerer's Apprentice' or 'Night on Bald Mountain', but it secretly the best part of the movie."

(via Wikipedia)

Thanks for filling in, Pyotr. Anyway- Released in 1982, Ballet Robotique is also like Pas de deux in that it's fairly easy to describe. Filmed inside a GM automobile factory, the short shows the car manufacturing process, focusing on the robotic machines which put them together. But rather than have a narrator explain what's going on to make for an informative, if fairly dry, documentary, Rogers opts instead to score the film with pieces of classical music, with compositions by Bizet, Delibes, and two from Tchaikovsky- "The Waltz of the Flowers" and "The 1812 Overture." (He does not, however, use Tchaikovsky's "Pas De Deux" from The Nutcracker, even in the segment literally entitled "Pas De Deux". Granted, Pas de deux didn't use that piece either, but nevertheless I'm docking points from this film for that oversight.) It's all very silly, and it's all very fun, and worth a watch even if you're otherwise not mechanically inclined.

Like Pas de deux before it, Ballet Robotique is a film which best speaks for itself. (A part of me thinks I should have just copied and pasted yesterday's posts as today's! I start school this week, it's a busy time for me!) Is it as good as Pas de deux? No, but few films are. And it's still a pretty great film regardless, with various touches sprinkled throughout to elevate it from a mere novelty- from the moody lighting washing the robots (I have to assume the factory is not normally lit in such striking colors) to the heartfelt tribute to the people who run the machines at the end. What it all means I can't say for sure. But I admire the way Rogers managed to find beauty in the mundane, taking the movements of industrial machines and turning them into art. There's beauty all around us if you know where to look, and lord knows Rogers certainly did. I suppose that's the mark of a great artist, isn't it?

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