The Dead, a film by Stan Brakhage

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In The Dead (1960), Stan Brakhage’s roaming camera explores the funerary architecture of the huge Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris. Shots of the tombs and the banks of the Seine viewed from a river boat may be typical tourist fare but Brakhage transforms his footage with fragmented editing, superimposition and continual cutting from positive to negative. The youthful figure glimpsed at the beginning is Kenneth Anger. As usual with Brakhage, the film is a silent one. Watch it here.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Mothlight, a film by Stan Brakhage
Thot-Fal’N, a film by Stan Brakhage

Mothlight, a film by Stan Brakhage

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One of the common methods of making a no-budget abstract film was to scratch or paint directly onto the film itself, a technique popularised by Len Lye in the 1930s. Mothlight (1963) by Stan Brakhage works a variation on the process by gluing broken moth wings, leaves and other bits of natural detritus to a length of film. It only runs for three minutes but it’s a classic piece of experimental cinema. As usual with Brakhage, the titles are hand-drawn, and the film itself is silent.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Walter Ruttmann’s abstract cinema
7362, a film by Pat O’Neill
Here and There, a film by Andrzej Pawlowski
Power Spot by Michael Scroggins
OffOn by Scott Bartlett
The Flow III
Chris Parks
Len Lye
Matrix III by John Whitney
Symphonie Diagonale by Viking Eggeling
Mary Ellen Bute: Films 1934–1957
Norman McLaren
John Whitney’s Catalog
Arabesque by John Whitney
Moonlight in Glory
Jordan Belson on DVD
Ten films by Oskar Fischinger
Lapis by James Whitney

Thot-Fal’N, a film by Stan Brakhage

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A final film for this week of Burroughs-related posts. Thot-Fal’N (1978) is a typical piece of Stan Brakhage montage: 9 minutes of completely silent close-ups, shots blurred to incoherence, and occasional clips of American streets or people. Among the identifiable humans there’s a brief sequence with William Burroughs and a balloon, and also shots of Allen Ginsberg and Peter Orlovsky. Brakhage enjoyed creating cinema that was deliberately abstract and without narrative so there’s no need to go looking for a meaning.

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Previously on { feuilleton }
Mr Bradly Mr Martin Hear Us Through The Hole In Thin Air
The Last Words of Dutch Schultz, a film by Gerrit van Dijk
Burroughs at 100
Nova Express, a film by Andre Perkowski
Decoder, a film by Jürgen Muschalek
The Burroughs Century
Interzone: A William Burroughs Mix
Sine Fiction
The Ticket That Exploded: An Ongoing Opera
Burroughs: The Movie revisited
Zimbu Xolotl Time
Ah Pook Is Here
Jarek Piotrowski’s Soft Machine
Looking for the Wild Boys
Wroblewski covers Burroughs
Mugwump jism
Brion Gysin’s walk, 1966
Burroughs in Paris
William Burroughs interviews
Soft machines
Burroughs: The Movie
William S Burroughs: A Man Within
The Final Academy
William Burroughs book covers
Towers Open Fire

Joseph Cornell: Worlds in a Box

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Susan Sontag, Tony Curtis and Stan Brakhage all shared an appreciation for the work of American artist Joseph Cornell (1903–1972), and all appear in a 51-minute documentary Joseph Cornell: Worlds in a Box directed by Mark Stokes for the BBC in 1991. Susan Sontag was also the subject of one of Cornell’s collages, something she discusses here. Tony Curtis collected many of Cornell’s boxes and used to visit the artist when he was in New York; in Stokes’s film he discusses their relationship and reads from Cornell’s writings.

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I’ve had a tape of this for years courtesy of Kerri Sharp who worked on the film (hi Kerri!) but it’s taken a while to turn up on YouTube. The value of films such as this isn’t so much the view they give of the works themselves—all of which are better judged in books or museums—but the way they function as mini-biographies which give a sense of the environment from which the art emerged. You can read in detail about Cornell’s life in Deborah Solomon’s Utopia Parkway: The Life and Work of Joseph Cornell (1997) but a text description of his home lacks the immediacy of the views Stokes gives us of the Cornell house, and the room where he created so much of his work. The film also follows Cornell’s train journeys into New York City, and visits the locations of his short films. Extracts of the latter appear throughout the documentary but you can see them in full at Ubuweb.

If you’re looking for an arty (and costly) Christmas present this year, Thames & Hudson have just published Joseph Cornell’s Manual of Marvels: How Joseph Cornell reinvented a French Agricultural Manual to create an American Masterpiece; two books in a box with a CD, edited by Analisa Leppanen-Guerra and Dickran Tashjian. The NYT reviews it here.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Joseph Cornell, 1967
Rose Hobart by Joseph Cornell
View: The Modern Magazine

Joseph Cornell, 1967

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More Surrealism (sort of) from 1967. Joseph Cornell is a catalogue for an exhibition selected and presented by Diane Waldman at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in 1967. The book is one of a number of new and very welcome additions from the Guggenheim Museum to the stock of scanned books at the Internet Archive. Old art books and catalogues often feature black-and-white reproductions but that drawback doesn’t invalidate the usefulness of their textual content. The Museum’s own pages for the archived books may be browsed here.

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Cockatoo: Keepsake Parakeet (1949–1953).

For more on the Magus of Utopia Parkway I’d suggest the BBC’s documentary film Joseph Cornell: Worlds in a Box (1991) but only if you can find a copy since I’ve not seen it online anywhere. That’s a shame because it’s an excellent introduction to Cornell’s life and work, with the added bonus of commentary from Susan Sontag and Cornell’s film collaborators Stan Brakhage and Rudolph Burckhardt. There’s also a surprise appearance from Tony Curtis who was friends with the artist and who reads from his diaries.

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Medici Slot Machine (1942).

Elsewhere, Ubuweb has Cornell’s short films which proceed from the radical re-editing of Rose Hobart (1936) to more lyrical works such as Nymphlight (1957). And I’ve mentioned this before but it’s always worth another look: Americana Fantastica, the edition of Charles Henry Ford’s View magazine edited and illustrated by Cornell in 1943.

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Medici Princess (1952).

Previously on { feuilleton }
Rose Hobart by Joseph Cornell
View: The Modern Magazine