Joseph Cornell (1903-1972)
Bookstalls (c. late 1930s)
Jack’s Dream (made with Larry Jordan) (c. late 1930s)
Rose Hobart (1936)
Cotillion / The Midnight Party (made with Larry Jordan) (c. 1938)
Thimble Theater (1938)
By Night with Torch and Spear (1942)
The Aviary (made with Rudy Burkhardt) (1955)
Centuries of June (made with Stan Brakhage) (1955)
Angel (made with Rudolph Burckhardt) (1957)
A Legend for Fountains (made with Rudolph Burckhardt) (1957/1965)
Nymphlight (made with Rudolph Burckhardt) (1957)
Gnir Rednow (with Stan Brakhage) (1960)
Cornell, 1965 (directed by Larry Jordan)
The first and greatest American Surrealist, Joseph Cornell is best known for his boxes. The best of his mysterious assemblages of dime-store tchochkes and paper ephemera in little hand-made cabinets perfectly realize the elusive sublime at the heart of Surrealism, while avoiding the juvenile theatrics of his European colleagues.
However, Cornell was also one of the most original and accomplished filmmakers to emerge from the Surrealist movement, and one of the most peculiar. Just as the ascetic and introverted Cornell himself held Surrealism at arms length, borrowing only those elements that suited his interests and temperament, his films superficially resemble those made by other Surrealists, they are in truth sui generis. Only a handful of his contemporaries understood the genius of films like his Rose Hobart an unfortunate situation exacerbated by Cornell's own obstinate resistance to public screenings. No one made films even remotely similar to Cornell's for almost thirty years, and even now the perfect opacity of his montage remains unrivalled.