Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Adventures in (Armchair) Historical Research

Cover for Das Loch im Vorhang
One of the direct benefits of the Internet is the ability for researchers like myself to track down rare material in other countries. Not only is there a plethora of films from other countries being uploaded to sites like YouTube and Vimeo, but sites like Google Translate lower the communication barrier with their tools for translating foreign languages and in some cases, the ability to translate entire websites into English on the fly.

An example occurred earlier this year, when I was looking through my collection of works that involved Lotte Reiniger. Among the books I've located in the past were an original German copy of Venus in Seide , which featured Lotte's silhouette illustrations, or an old library copy of Walking Shadows from a bookseller in England -- Walking Shadows being a hardback essay written about Lotte by Eric Walter White, one of her former assistants. This essay is particularly interesting as it gives details into Lotte's animation process – along with a few plates with images of models that she created but never used in her films.

Well, while I was looking at the short list of publications that Lotte directly worked with, one that has eluded me for years piqued my interest. A quick visit to the normal sites that sold international books, such as Abe Books or the German antiquarian who sold me Venus in Seide, proved fruitless. Then, for some reason, I decided to switch gears. A quick search on the German-language version of Amazon.com, and there it was: a copy of Helmuth Krüger's Das Loch Im Vorhang (English translation: The Hole in the Curtain). It’s the only other book, that I am aware of, for which Lotte created silhouette illustrations (there may be more, I'm just not aware of any other than the aforementioned two). However, purchasing from Amazon.de proved fruitless. Google Translate wouldn't work on the Amazon website, and I couldn't figure out how to a) select international shipping or b) ask the bookseller if they
even would ship to America.

Illustration from 'Flucht in die Rulissen'
English translation: 'Escape to the backdrop'
After thinking about it for a day, I went back to Amazon and puzzled out the bookseller's name then tracked down their website. Lo and behold, there it was, listed on their website. And while struggling to figure out the German website, I made the welcome discovery that their shopping cart had an English-language feature. A month later, I had a very weathered copy of this book from 1922 sitting on my desk, and a smile across my face as I tried to translate the handwritten dedication that the author -- Helmuth Krüger -- had written to someone named Rolf. The images included in this article are taken of Lotte's silhouette illustrations to give readers an idea of how detailed her work was back then. For those interested in looking at all the illustrations in this book, a copy of Das Loch im Vorhang was scanned and posted on the Deutsche National Bibliothek website, which is accessible at the following link: https://portal.dnb.de/bookviewer/view/1128443937.

Ain't modern life grand?

'Sumurûn' illustration on page 89
*  *  *

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Notice regarding Yearly Women Animator Interviews

Greetings all,

I have made the decision to skip this year's interviews with women animators.

Reason being is actually an uplifting one: turns out that I was asked to teach animation history at a local university. As such, all the time I would have spent on doing interviews in 2019 was reallocated in order to read several books, prepare lectures, presentations, assignments and exams, locate and view films to show in class, locate visual aids, and all the other miscellaneous prep work that was required to teach a college-level course.

I apologize that I couldn't get any interviews prepared ahead of time, but there are only so many hours in a day and I'm already working two jobs between the day job and freelancing.

However, the women animator interviews will return in 2021 (and I may have a couple later this year to whet your appetite). In the meantime, I urge you to visit my Women of Animated Film FaceBook page as I am sharing a bunch of highlights, articles, and films spotlighting women animators over the month of March.

Thank you for your understanding,

Charles Wilson
Smudge Animation

*  *  *