Parabola (1937, Mary Ellen Bute and Ted Nemeth)

Parábola is a series of objects, usually with parabola shapes (a U), shot at different angles, made with different materials, moving and interacting, with lighting and editing making the objects move or interact in one way or another. The objects are sculptures by Rutherford Boyd; they’re sometimes art deco, sometimes just appear art deco because of directors Bute and Nemeth’s lighting effects.

The short is set to an excerpt from Darius Milhaud’s ballet, La Création du monde. There’s no change in intensity throughout, no suggestion of narrative at all. Examined objects will show up, then disappear, but there’s nothing sequential about the film. There are occasional moments where the music matches perfectly, but there’s always so much movement, of course it will.

There are some exceptional shots in the film, usually with how Bute and Nemeth’s lighting effects or stop motion make the objects “move” onscreen. It’s unclear if the objects themselves are moving or if it’s the camera moving. Doesn’t really matter.

It runs just under nine minutes, going through a whole bunch of objects, which create a whole bunch of different visuals. Even though the parabola shape is in nearly all of them, the objects are often very different.

There’s some really beautiful stuff in Parábola. Bute and Nemeth (and Boyd) command attention.



Directed by Mary Ellen Bute and Ted Nemeth; sculptures by Rutherford Boyd.


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