Found Dreamscapes | Chicago Reader

Found Dreamscapes

Collaborations between artist Joseph Cornell and other filmmakers during the 50s and 60s comprise most of this program, the sixth in a series on surrealism in film presented by Doc Films and the Smart Museum of Art. Cornell called on Stan Brakhage to film Manhattan's Third Avenue el before it was torn down, and the result was Brakhage's first silent film, the poetic The Wonder Ring (1956). Some years later Cornell transformed it into Gnir Rednow (the earlier title backward), showing Brakhage's images upside down and backward to create a strange inversion of space and time. Cornell also used Brakhage to shoot Centuries of June, and while this print is somewhat faded, the film shows evidence of Brakhage's later style in his dynamic filming of an old wooden house's interior and exterior. Cornell collaborated with Larry Jordan on Carousel, in which the urban setting of the Central Park Zoo makes ordinary animals look unexpectedly weird, and the startlingly beautiful Jack's Dream and Thimble Theater, whose bizarre intercutting of live-action nature footage with an animated version of “Jack and the Beanstalk” is more surreal than many of the other entries. In fact, Ken Jacobs's Blonde Cobra (1963) owes little to surrealism: working with filmmakers Bob Fleischner, who shot most of the footage, and Jack Smith, who plays several characters, mostly in drag, Jacobs offers an intense vision of urban despair. The campy clutter of the tight interior images owes a debt to von Sternberg, and sometimes a black screen accompanies Smith's stories on the sound track, an intensifying device that also ruptures the film's visual space.


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