still from "Angel," directed by Joseph Cornell and Rudolph Burckhardt
Once hailed by Salvador Dali as making “the only truly surrealist work to be found in America,” Joseph Cornell is justifiably famous for his unique shadowboxes and collages. But lesser known is that, between the mid-1930s and early 1960s, Cornell quietly created a group of films that not only amplify and extend the themes of his visual art, but also place him among the masters of avant-garde cinema. In the second Film Love event, Frequent Small Meals presents a Joseph Cornell Cinema Sampler.
Joseph Cornell, Untitled (The Hotel Eden)
Cornell was a lifelong collector of old films – home movies, b-movies, and oddities found during his obsessive scavenging trips through the flea markets, bookstalls, and curio shops of midcentury Manhattan. In the 1930s, he began re-editing these films to create eye-opening juxtapositions, in the process becoming what is widely believed to be the first filmmaker ever to use found footage as a basis for filmmaking. In “Jack’s Dream,” a sleeping puppet from an old filmplay is made to seem as if it is dreaming of the sea. “Cotillion” is a tour de force of editing, in which a boisterous children’s party, dangerous circus acts, and dancing girls are all upstaged by an infant who continually falls asleep while trying to eat an apple!
Later, Cornell began collaborating with other filmmakers in order to create his own footage. Where the earlier films are often spectacularly lively, these later collaborations are lyrical and contemplative, extending the themes of Cornell’s visual art into the moving image. “Angel” is a luminous study of statues, fountains, and water. In “Centuries of June,” about an old house on the verge of destruction and the children playing in its shadow, Stan Brakhage and Cornell create a small masterpiece of contemplative cinema.
Finally, we will see Jordan’s film “Cornell 1965,” which is not only a look at the shadowboxes housed at Cornell’s famous residence on Utopia Parkway, but also contains some of the only known film footage ever taken of the reclusive artist himself.
Like his boxes, Cornell’s films present a unique visual world, rife with nostalgia, ambivalence, and multileveled meanings; playful and humorous, yet containing darker intimations. Frequent Small Meals is proud to present a cinematic tribute to this unique and ever-fascinating artist.
The films will be presented in 16mm.
Cotillion, The Midnight Party, Carroussel, Jack’s Dream, Thimble Theater
(Lawrence Jordan and Joseph Cornell)
The Aviary, Nymphlight, A Fable for Fountains, Angel (Rudolph Burckhardt and Joseph Cornell)
Cornell, 1965 (Lawrence Jordan)
Centuries of June (Stan Brakhage and Joseph Cornell)