Mechanical Principles - Ralph Steiner

Rental Format(s): Digital File

Alternate title: Gears in Motion and Design
Maker: Ralph Steiner
Assisted by Jay Leyda
Original format: 35mm silent film 1.33:1
Music: Colin McPhee composed and performed in 1931, now considered lost
New music: Eric Beheim adapted from Isaac Albeinez's Tango in D
Courtesy Ralph Steiner

Round and round go the gears in this extraordinary study. Ralph Steiner's second film is mesmerizing in its attention to concentric, repetitive mechanized motions. Far from being pedantic or boring, the movements fascinate and titillate. The comedic is equally central to Steiner's fascination with human-like interactions between the differentials. -Bruce Posner

The film presents a deceptively "open" series of images of gears and pistons that transfer movement from vertical to rotary directions. Musical in its repetitive visual form, it now seems akin to Charles Sheeler's paintings and photographs of railroad locomotive gears and wheels, a tribute to the machine age. -Robert A. Haller

Ralph Steiner (1899-1986), educated at Dartmouth, became a successful commercial and much honored fine art photographer. He made perhaps the first American abstract film, H2O (1929), following it with other experiments, some political in nature, some in Hollywood. Steiner also photographed with Paul Strand The Plow that Broke the Plains (1936) and co-directed and photographed The City (1939) with Willard Van Dyke and Henwar Rodakiewicz. -Robert A. Haller

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