Absolut Panushka, Jan-Apr 1997.
After Solomon Guggenheim died, the board of directors ousted the Baroness Hilla von Rebay from her position of power,
and no further stipends were offered to abstract animators. Harry Smith decided to stay in New York anyway, and became a long-time resident of the Chelsea Hotel and an integral part of the arts scene. No longer obliged to work strictly in abstract imagery, Smith began planning a "Great Work," a feature-length film which would concern the mystical journeys of occult systems like Alchemy and Kabala as well as Asian religions.
He prepared four short films to perfect the style. Film No. 8 and Film No. 9 are now lost, but Film No. 10 and Film No. 11 are two of the most wonderful films. Both use illustrations from Victorian textbooks and magazines, which are carefully colored and move through magical spaces, partly abstract and partly symbolic, such as a "theater of the mind" and the surface of the moon.
Film No. 10 was originally silent, but Smith later combined it with Tibetan sacred music (he received a Grammy Award for his contribution to recording ethnic music). Film No. 11 is tightly synchronized with Thelonius Monk's "Mysterioso," adding a compelling flow to the action, which includes the shadow of an Indian bharat-natyam dancer performing its own dance, the singer Yvette Guilbert demonstrating all the possible emotions to display during a song, priests of various cults performing rituals, and an alchemical vessel undergoing the distillation cycle.
Smith used the same techniques and symbols in the black-and-white feature Heaven and Earth Magic, No. 12. But unless you know a great deal about occult mysticism, it is hard to follow for 70 minutes, especially during the long journeys and repetitive rituals. It is nonetheless a remarkable work of animation skills and can reward repeated viewings or study.
Moritz, William. "History of Experimental Animation." Website. Absolut Panushka, curated by Christine Panushka. (Jan-Apr 1997).