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Rose Hobart


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The experimental collage film made in 1936 by artist Joseph Cornell screens to accompany the John Stezaker: Lost World exhibition.

Joseph Cornell’s Rose Hobart, first screened at the Julien Levy Gallery in New York in December 1936. Joseph Cornell (1903–72) is now recognised as one of America’s major 20th century artists.

Rose Hobart is essentially a re-edit of the 1931 film East of Borneo, interspersed with images of an eclipse and scenes from nature films. The film is named in honour of East of Borneo’s lead actress, Rose Hobart, who becomes the center of vague evocations of desire and dread.

Rose Hobart opens with a crowd gazing up at an eclipse and builds to a climax in which the eclipsed sun appears to fall from the sky into a pool of water. In between, Rose Hobart’s troubled gaze confronts a series of men, monkeys, crocodiles, and volcanoes with curiously mournful eroticism. (Tristes Tropiques was an alternate title Cornell later considered.) Such a 'story' makes only dream-sense; hence the logic of the first sequence, in which our heroine awakens from confused sleep dressed as a man.

US, 19 min., 1936, Dir. Rose Hobart. Courtesy of Light Cone, Paris