Joseph Cornell 1903-1972
Gnir Rednow (with Stan Brakhage) (1960)
Gnir Rednow (1960) 16mm, color, silent, 10 min
After Joseph Cornell asked Stan Brakhage to film Manhattan's Third Avenue Elevated Train, Brakhage photographed and edited his film "The Wonder Ring." Not satisfied with the results, Cornell then took the outtakes from "The Wonder Ring" (Brakhage keeping his original intact), and edited his own version, with those outtakes, calling it "Gnir Rednow." There has been a long-standing misconception that the film "Gnir Rednow" is simply "The Wonder Ring" projected in reverse. However, Mark Toscano, of the Academy Film Archive, has definitively established that the original roll of each one of these two films is "unmistakably, completely comprised of camera original Kodachrome," and that no two shots are precisely the same from one film to the other. Rather, the pieces of film used for "Gnir Rednow" are those unused portions of the shots that had been incorporated into "The Wonder Ring." Brakhage referred to "Gnir Rednow" as "Cornell's mirrored version of The Wonder Ring," stating that Cornell had made it to be "projectionable four ways: head-to-tail, tail-to-head (projector always running forward), and the film-flipped versions of the above two." It was perhaps his use of the term "mirrored version" which led to the confusion. However, Brakhage also noted that Cornell had considered the film unfinished; that Cornell had sent it to him, several years before his death, with several strips of film loose in the can, requesting that Brakhage finish it. Brakhage wrote, "As I was never able to improve upon his 'unfinished' edit of it, this print is exactly as he sent it to me then. The five or six seconds he couldn't' find any place for have, accordingly, been left out."