Sunday, July 24, 2011

Rose Hobart 3

Joseph Cornell, Box for Rose Hobart, 1936.
16 mm film, 20 min

Rose Hobart

At the first screening of Rose Hobart—
In December 1936, Salvador DalĂ­ throws
A bitchy temper tantrum out of spite.

She knocks over the projector—
Screams in Spanish at shocked Cornell
Who flees but later is informed…

Miss Dali called Cornell a plagiarist—
A telepathic con-artist who stole Dali’s
Idea for doing a similar movie.

Madame Dali just another jaded—
Old has-been Queen in Surreal drag
Posing as a pompous fascist prick.

Cornell takes footage from a jungle flick—
Chops it up, reorders it, discards the plot,
An adventure film East of Borneo.

He crosscuts it some more—
Reorders it, discarding tacky soundtrack
Focusing on gay oneiric ambiguities.

He’s obsessed with the quivering—
Halting beauty of starlet Rose Hobart,
Ditches the traditional movie narrative.

He cuts out reaction shots—
You rarely know who Rose is speaking to,
Why she’s reacting the way she does.

He crosscuts totally different scenes—
And clips together to appear in succession,
Confusing the matches of things instead.

The film seems deliberately worn—
There’s an aestheticization of filmic decay,

Kipple is making things wear away.

Strange eclipses fall outta the sky—
Accidents & deterioration are the style
Damaged passages, fading rooms.

Like today there’s no real consensus—
On the meaning of anything in the film
Or how Cornell perceives its significance.

Radical, shocking and new—
Seemingly sentimental, a misplaced
Lost silent film deliberately obsolete.

That era vanishing with the advent—
Of the first talking picture, The Jazz Singer,
Back in 1927 ending many dreams.

Cornell longs for the silent muse—
The poetic & evocative language of gestures
And expressions in the silent film.

The world of expressive silence—
Caught in the chaos of the new talking films
“Among the barren wastes…”

Transforming the talkie East of Borneo—
Into the silent film Rose Hobart is easy,
Just remove the soundtrack, play a record.

Brazilian music for a new screening—
Slowing the film down to silent speed
(16 frames per second vs. sound speed’s 24).

Projecting the film thru a colored filter—
Using close-up shots & featuring gesture
Rather than crymmy primitive speech.

Returning to methods & moods of silence—
Projecting Rose Hobart at silent speed &
Retarding the gestures & action of Borneo.

Not quite slow motion, but enough—
To lend them a nuance of another era’s
Gone elegance and protraction.

Cornell longs for actress Hedy Lamarr—
Comparing the meditative hush & poetry
Of silent films to Renaissance portraiture.

Apprentices of Caravaggio—
And Georges de la Tour with studio props
Fading into drama of tenebroso painters...

Lamarr enveloped in warm shades—
And shadows of Rembrandt like Renaissance
Portrait in the middle of a jungle flick.

His Mona Lisa is Rose Hobar—
Forgotten former actress discarded by theaters
Had she ever actually been an actress?

Never enough of a star—
To be properly forgotten, but her identity adds
To her mystery like a lost Renaissance portrait.

She’s faintly familiar, subtly engaging—
Opaquely inaccessible with her voice dissolved
And her forgotten narrative obscured.

She becomes a blank slate—
Like an artist’s model, subtracting her words
And plot simply adds to her ethereality.

The same tenebroso of light—
Creates Boy & Kimba’s secret love affair
In “Tarzan and the Leopard Woman.”

Homoerotic states are translatable—
From the usual straight storylines, Cornell’s
Rose Hobart a boy furtively lost.

There’s a gay irrationality—
To the implacable seduction of jungle heat
On the two boyz making love back then.

Cornell stresses the importance of—
Rose Hobart’s remoteness, her remaining out
Of reach if she’s to retain the fantasy.

Without a narrative to give the scenes—
The usual hetero structure & meaning goes,
Boy & Kimba develop their individuality.

We’re pointed indirectly to latent—
Gay meanings not manifest in the catalogue
Of discrete & politically-correct libido.

They swish through the twilight space—
The film strangely silent, paying no attention
To any distracting music or soundtrack.

The two young jungle lovers embrace—
Like Rose Hobart they’re becoming almost
Invisible, only their gestures remind us.

Just as Rose Hobart’s ethereality evokes—
Her transcendent, eternal beauty, private desire
We become cataloguers of gay avant-garde.

It doesn’t take the greatest film—
To become a high camp fetish of the action,
Making cult outta the one we’re watching.

A film’s gay beauty can be simply found—
In the broken moments liberated and—
Made free from the morass of talkies.

Any film can become a breathtaking—
Example of potential for surrealistic imagery
Within a conventional Hollywood mise-en-scene..

Liberated from its narrative causality—
A midtown-Manhattan movie theater can be
The scene for any avant-garde illustration.

Mimicking Michelangelo’s legendary manifesto—
“I saw an angel in the street & followed him
Into a movie theater where I set him free.

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