The Early Films of Mary Ellen Bute


I saw a program of Mary Ellen Bute’s short abstract films a couple weeks back at Anthology and was really impressed. Bute was a pioneering and innovative female filmmaker and animator whose work is still not widely known. Much of her early films function a bit like music videos. She called them “visual music” – she creates graphics through analog means in order to accompany a piece of music. Later, she incorporated digital imagery as well – her 1952 film Abstronic featured oscilloscope patterns dancing to the tune. Interestingly, many of her short films premiered at major venues like Radio City Music Hall as the supporting act for feature films.

Seems to me she would have gotten along swimmingly with Doctor Who theme composer Delia Derbyshire, whose lost experimental audio work, including a techno predecessor from the 60s, has recently been uncovered.

More on Mary Ellen Bute HERE.

Below I’m including those films that are available on youtube, presented chronologically. The last two are in color.

Rhythm in Light (1934)

Dada (1936)

Spook Sport (1939)

Tarantella (1940)

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