Harry Smith

35mm; D.: 141’ a 24 f/s. Harry Smith’s Description of his film Mahagonny:
A Mathematical analysis of Duchamp’s «La Mariée Mise à nu par ses célibataires, même» expressed in terms of Kurt Weill’s score for Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny with contrapuntal images (not necessarily in order) derived from Brecht’s libretto for the latter work.

T. it.: Italian title. T. int.: International title. T. alt.: Alternative title. Sog.: Story. Scen.: Screenplay. F.: Cinematography. M.: Editing. Scgf.: Set Design. Mus.: Music. Int.: Cast. Prod.: Production Company. L.: Length. D.: Running Time. f/s: Frames per second. Bn.: Black e White. Col.: Color. Da: Print source

Film Notes

Mahagonny – 16mm, 141 minutes, four projector film work. A parody of life in America. «You have to live Mahagonny, in fact be Mahagonny in order to work on it.» First, because despite the complexity of repetition in the twenty-one songs in the opera, there are sections that approximate the sounds of both those musical cultures that select melody as their fundamental trait and those which use rhythm as the point for development. Second, because the story is simple and widespread; the joyous gathering of a great number of people, the breaking of the rules of liberty and love, and consequent fall into oblivion. My photography has not been directed toward making a «realistic» version of the opera, but rather toward translating, as nearly as I can, images of the German text into universal, or near universal, symbols and synchronizing the appropriate images with music. These images consist of about 250 categories such as eggs breaking, plants growing, rain falling, fire burning, parts of the human body and even scenes of the city. About half the footage consists of animation of one sort or another. The animation is based mostly on the fundamental symbols found in all art such as the circle or dots. The emotional connotations of objects moving toward, past, or away from the spectator, or things suddenly forming or dissolving, have also been utilized. This method has been followed in order that the final film will be just as intelligible to the Zulu, the Eskimo, or the Australian Aborigine as to people of any other cultural background or age. […] The film has been edited to over six hours of footage, which is presented in a four screen projection in a recombinant fashion in two hour and twenty one minute presentation which is synchronized to the Brecht/Weill opera.

Harry Smith

One of the chief problems presented by Mahagonny was to find a way to exhibit the film. After making tests in video, it was decided that the four sixteen millimeter images would be tiled into a single 35mm frame with soundtrack, so that the film could be shown using a single, conventional 35mm projector.

Michael Friend

Copy From

Restored by

Restored by Cineric in 2002 from Kodachrome color reversal original