Jack's Dream (Joseph Cornell, 1938, USA)

Joseph Cornell was an American artist, based out of New York state, who was self-taught. He worked in the visual arts and films and lived out most of his life largely in isolation and poverty. Jack's Dream is an early short by Cornell, made in 1938. The film opens with a picture-book story of Little Red Riding Hood. We quickly enter the world of Little Red Riding Hood, visiting a house with two puppets living inside, as well as a dog. We then are treated to some footage of a sinking ship on the ocean, which is followed by images of sea horses.

We return to the puppetry, and now we see an encounter between a person in the house and a monstrous dragon. The person tries to fend off the dragon from attacking. The dog is barking and begins to chase the dragon while the dragon is in pursuit of the woman. The woman hides behind a curtain as the dragon approaches and bears its fang, steam coming out of its nose. Interspersed again is the image of the boat, along with what appears to be an ocean sunrise.

While Cornell is still primarily known for his "boxes" - assembled shadow boxes with electic fragments arranged inside of them - his films also bear the influence of this "found art" technique. Namely, we can see the influence of this style in the use of found footage - many of Cornell's films used repurposed footage from other works to create evocative or dreamlike imagery. Likewise, the use of puppets - although they may have been created rather than found - suggests the quality of a work that was found. Jack's Dream is an interesting example of early experimental and avant-garde American cinema, and certainly unlike anything else we have seen here.



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