Experiments In Film: Rose Hobart (1936)

The soviet filmmakers, including Sergei Eisenstein, made it a goal of their to study how montages of imagery revolutionized the way viewers consumed cinema.  Often their imagery would rely solely on juxtaposition and how certain paired images caused unconscious relations in the human mind.  This style of filmmaking would go on to influence art house giants like Godard and Makvajev in countless ways.  However, on the precipice of this all stands the 1936 experimental masterpiece Rose Hobart, which is at its simplest form a re-cutting of the film East of Borneo and at its greatest form a carefully considered study of one woman's psyche as she deals with the predatory wild of both nature and the men around her.  However, to refer to this as simply being a new edit of a film would be to dismiss it as a revolutionary study in the affects of paired imagery not different than the goals of Eisenstein and other Soviet filmmakers.  What filmmaker Joseph Cornell manages to do in 19 minutes is completely revise a narrative to tell another story void of logic and familiarity, even though the film, in fact, pulls all its images from scenes that already existed within a familiar film.

Cornell's combination of b-roll footage, jump cuts on actress Rose Hobart and a blue tint over the film change a one film from a trite melodrama to a praiseworthy surrealist vision.  The seemingly arbitrary editing of the footage makes one think back to the early  works of Bunuel and Dali (who was one of the few fans of this work early on), as well as realize the influences the film had on later experiment filmmakers like Maya Deren and Stan Brakhage.  Similarly, Cornell's work can be called an early experiment in found footage, which would later become the stuff of viral filmmaking, as is evidenced by works sites like Everything Is Terrible, which gather bizarre film footage and edit to appear completely debasing.  Regardless, of what one refers to Rose Hobart as, it is quite certain that the film revolutionized editing and resulted in artistic filmmakers questioning their purpose and methodology.  Cornell's actions whether one considers them brilliant or fraudulent inevitably deserves his place in the halls of great experimental filmmakers for his unusual approach to a rather usual subject.

For more information on Joseph Cornell or to view the film click on either of the film stills below:

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