31 October 2007
Joseph Cornell's "Rose Hobart" (1936) is a short, 19 minute experimental film created by the artist Joseph Cornell, who cut and re-edited the Hollywood film "East of Borneo" into one of America's most famous surrealist short films. Cornell was fascinated by the star of East of Borneo, an actress named Rose Hobart, and named his short film after her. The piece consists of snippets from East of Borneo combined with shots from a documentary of an eclipse. When Cornell screened the film, he projected it through a piece of blue glass and slowed the speed of projection to that of a silent film. The original soundtrack is removed, and the film is accompanied instead by "Forte Allegre" and "Belem Bayonne", two songs from Nestor Amaral's "Holiday in Brazil," a record that Cornell had found at a junk shop.
The film was first shown in 1936 at Julian Levy's New York City gallery in a matinee program featuring short films from Cornell's collection. Levy called the program "Goofy Newsreels." This took place around the same time as the first surrealism exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art.
Salvador Dalí was in the audience, but halfway through the film, he knocked over the projector in a rage. "My idea for a film is exactly that, and I was going to propose it to someone who would pay to have it made," he said. "I never wrote it down or told anyone, but it is as if he had stolen it." Other versions of Dalí's accusation tend to the more poetic: "He stole it from my subconscious!" or even "He stole my dreams!"
After the Dalí incident, Cornell did not show the film again until the 1960s, when, at the behest of Jonas Mekas, it was screened again for a public audience. When the first print was made from Cornell's original in 1969, Cornell chose a 'rose' tint instead of the normal blue.