From: Bruce Checefsky (email suppressed)
Date: Sat Apr 05 2008 - 20:37:18 PDT
i think you are on the right track with the observation about Rosa Hobart and East of Borneo. Jeanne
has been very helpful; we've had several interesting email correspondence about Monsieur Phot.
The Monsieur Phot film scenario includes a live pheasant that unexpectedly appears throughout the
film then disappears as quickly fluttering its wings to escape a group of children for example. The main
character is a photographer on roller-skates wearing a dark cape and top hat (Cornell himself?) with a
4 x 5 camera mounted to a tripod in a wintery, snow covered Central Park NYC. He innocently follows
the children, asks them to pose for a photograph. The cinematic scene quickly changes, one surreal
sequence after another, brought to an end by a concert pianist seated on a stage, recklessly pounding
on the piano keyboard, incapable of playing the instrument to any measurable level of competency.
Monsieur Phot is an ambitious script, calling for more technical ability than Cornell could have
possessed or hired at the time. A film in sound, the voices of the actors were to be silent. It was to be
shot in black and white, with sequences of color at climatic moments.
The ‘film’ must have played in his imagination as Cornell wrote the text. Monsieur Phot was published
in 1933, and quite possibly Cornell thought about film as a place where his interest in collage could
merge with his interests in dance and theatre. After all, the shadow boxes can be seen as film
vignettes. Why didn’t Cornell return to Monsieur Phot later especially after the success of Rosa Hobart?
I could send you a copy of the scenario if you're interested in reading it again.
I like that term "unmade" in this context - double meaning there. Cornell's "Rose Hobart," for example,
could be "East of Borneo" un-made.
It's been awhile since I've seen the scenario for Monsieur Phot, and I don't have a copy at hand. This is
making me want to read it again. I've seen nothing that suggests he actually attempted to make it as a
film - but also don't remember anything in the scenario that suggested it was only for paper. Isn't the
main character someone involved with observing people? I'm wondering now to what extent his later
films (the ones photographed by Burckhardt and Brakhage, as opposed to found by Cornell) might
themselves be a realization of ideas from Monsieur Phot.
Jeanne Liotta, who's on this list, has been involved with curating programs of Cornell's early films and
might know more about the history of Monsieur Phot.
----- Original Message ----- From: "Bruce Checefsky" <email suppressed>
To: "Experimental Film Discussion List" <email suppressed>
Cc: <email suppressed>
Sent: Saturday, April 05, 2008 11:58 AM
Subject: Re: Lost, Destroyed, and Unmade Films
> Thanks, Andy. I've looked at Cornell's Monsieur Phot and considered making the film for over a year
> (probably longer). After reading Pavle Levi's interesting article titled 'Doctor Hypnison and the Case
> Written Cinema (October 166, Spring 2006), in which he describes a scenario by poet Monny de
> a 'paper movie', written never to be filmed, (Film critic Branko Vučićević' wrote about this in his book
> Paper Movies), I believe this was likely the case with Cornell's Monsieur Phot. Andrew Lampert
> Cornell didn't attempt to make the film which makes sense from the research. But i still wonder if he
> wrote the scenario with the idea of making the film later, or did he published it as a 'paper film'.
> read the scenario? what do you think?
> thanks bruce
> Joseph Cornell's "Monsieur Phot," a scenario for an unmade film, published 1936 in Julien Levy's book
> "Surrealism" and reprinted (I believe) in P. Adams Sitney's anthology titled "The Avant-Garde Film."
> Andy Ditzler
> ----- Original Message ----- From: "Bruce Checefsky" <email suppressed>
> To: <email suppressed>
> Sent: Friday, April 04, 2008 9:51 PM
> Subject: Lost, Destroyed, and Unmade Films
>> I'm looking for short film scenario's published in the 1930's that were either never made into films,
>> lost/destroyed (as films) during WWII. Any suggestions?
For info on FrameWorks, contact Pip Chodorov at <email suppressed>.