Joseph Cornell 1903-1972
Cotillion / The Midnight Party (made with Larry Jordan) (c. 1938)
Cotillion; The Children's Party; The Midnight Party. 1940, completed 1968. By Joseph Cornell and Larry Jordan.
These three films were run together, so I couldn't tell where one ended and the other began, except that The Midnight Party was printed in sepia. These films are fun. They are about children and we have a lot of fun watching them. Cornell picks humorous moments--I especially remember the face of one little tyke who eats and coughs or sneezes on what he is eating. Freeze frames are used to good effect. There is a lot of footage of performers--acrobats, tightrope walkers, knife throwers, chorus girls--who, we assume, perform for the children.
What is fascinating about these pieces, in addition to the success with which Cornell culled together bits of film from disparate sources to make a new reality, is the streak of eroticism and child sexuality. Two little girls dance like chorus girls and there is something provocative aqbout them even if it seems to be innocent.
Most impressive, disturbing and provocative of all is the image of a little girl riding a horse in the manner of Lady Godiva. Where on earth did Cornell come up with this piece of film? Is this a child's fantasy of being sexually desirable? We see the girl's face and she doesn't look innocent. It is a haunting moment.
The three films suffer by being shown together.
-- John C., Film Notes
The films of the reclusive artist Joseph Cornell (1903-1972) are as unique as his famous box constructions. Though rarely exhibited during his lifetime, these mysterious works nonetheless have had a deep and lasting influence on the world of avant-garde filmmaking . His entire body of film numbers some thirty-odd works, encompassing the incomplete and the fragmentary. It can be said that Cornell made two kinds of films in two distinct periods of activity: collage films, made by recombining found materials, and directed films,where he worked with cinematographers (including Stan Brakhage, Rudy Burckhardt and Larry Jordan) to document his fantasy/experience of wandering in New York. -Bradley Eros and Jeanne Liotta