Monday, May 07, 2007

Joseph Cornell Film

Everyone knows Joseph Cornell by his boxes but he made films. Well better to say he arranged them.

Rose Hobart (1936 17 mins):
Rose Hobart consists almost entirely of footage taken from East of Borneo, a 1931 jungle B-film starring the nearly forgotten actress Rose Hobart. Cornell condensed the 77-minute feature into a 20-minute short, removing virtually every shot that didn't feature Hobart, as well as all of the action sequences. In so doing, he utterly transforms the images, stripping away the awkward construction and stilted drama of the original to reveal the wonderful sense of mystery that saturates the greatest early genre films.

Watching this film it is like a window to some demented dream. A blue haze fills the night footage as figures float in and out of the jungle and Cecil B. DeMille scale temples that fill the camera. The sound track to the film is Nestor Amaral's Holiday in Brazil, a kitschy record Cornell found in a Manhattan junk store.

Some idea of the place occupied by Rose Hobart is gained from the story told of Dali at the opening:

During the screening of Rose Hobart, Dali became extremely agitated. Halfway through the film he began shouting "Salaud!" — bastard — and overturned the projector. Reportedly, Dali ruefully explained his actions to Levy, "My idea for a film is exactly that, and I was going to propose it to someone who would pay to have it made…. I never wrote it or told anyone, but it is as if he had stolen it (Solomon 89).” Some prefer an apocryphal — but far more poetic — explanation also attributed to Dali: “He stole it from my subconscious.”

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