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LOS ANGELES ART COMMUNITY: GROUP PORTRAIT

Jules Engel

Interviewed by Lawrence Weschler and Milton Zolotow

Completed under the auspices

of the

Oral History Program

University of California

Los Angeles

Copyright ® 1985 The Regents of the University of California

COPYRIGHT LAW

The copyright law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code) governs the making of photocopies or other reproductions of copyrighted material. Under certain conditions specified in the law, libraries and archives are authorized to furnish a photocopy or other reproduction. One of these specified conditions is that the photocopy or reproduction is not to be used for any purpose other than private study, scholarship, or research. If a user makes a request for, or later uses, a photocopy or reproduction for purposes in excess of "fair use," that user may be liable for copyright infringement. This institution reserves the right to refuse to accept a copying order if, in its judgement, fulfillment of the order would involve violation of copyright law.

RESTRICTIONS

None .

LITERARY RIGHTS AND QUOTATION

This manuscript is hereby made available for research purposes only. All literary rights in the manuscript, including the right to publication, are reserved to the University Library of the University of California, Los Angeles. No part of the manuscript may be quoted for publication without the written permission of the University Librarian of the University of California, Los Angeles.

LOS ANGELES ART COMMUNITY: GROUP PORTRAIT

This interview is one of a series, entitled "Los Angeles Art Community: Group Portrait," funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities and conducted from July 1, 1975 to March 31, 1977 by the UCLA Oral History Program. The project was directed jointly by Page Ackerman, University Librarian, and Gerald Nordland, Director UCLA Art Galleries, and administered by Bernard Galm, Director, Oral History Program. After selection of interview candidates and interviewers, the Program assumed responsibility for the conduct of all interviews and their processing.

CONTENTS

Introduction viii

Interview History xiii

TAPE NUMBER: I, Side One (December 29, 1975) 1

Childhood in Budapest, Hungary--Arr ives in Evanston, Illinois, at age of 13--An affinity for nonf igurative des ign--Moves to Los Angeles-- Apprentice animator at Charles Mintz Studio-- Interest in movement and rhythm grows out of early exposure to ballet--Kandinsky exhibit--Work at Walt Disney Studios-- Fantasia Professional conflicts A lack of sympathy for experimentation at Disney.

TAPE NUMBER:' I, Side Two (December 29, 1975) 25

Recollections of Walt Disney--Disney as an instinctive entertainer--Limits of Disney's approach to animation--Work at the Air Force animation unit--Herb Klynn, an exceptional talent in graphic art3--United Productions of America (UPA) More on the limits of Disney's approach to animation--Personalities are the merchandise of Hollywood .

TAPE NUMBER: II, Video Session (January 23, 1976) 45

Los Angeles' shortcomings as an art center Comparisons with New York--More on work on Fantasia- -Discusses his drawings for Fantasia-- Rico Lebrun's work at Disney--Animators in the 1950s--Exhibits of animators' paintings The hard-edge geometrical style of Engel's paintings A desire to translate qualities of simplicity and directness from painting into film Film as a developing art form More on work at UPA--An emphasis on flat, two-dimensional design at UPA The UPA look influenced by contemporary painters Raoul Dufy and the divorced line The use of color as aspect of dramatic intent--Economy of gesture in UPA films Robert Cannon, the greatest animator in the business.

1

I

TAPE NUMBER: III, Side One (May 19, 1976) 79

On present position as chairman of film graphics department at California Institute of the Arts (Cal Arts) Interrelationship of film and other art forms at Cal Arts Early history of Cal Arts Future trends in the arts--The live-action camera department at Cal Arts--Cal Arts as a reservoir of young talent--A positive working environment at Cal Arts.

TAPE NUMBER: IV, Side One (December 16, 1977) 105

Viewing Engel's experimental animation films-- Train Landscape, a painterly approach to f ilmmaking--Engel ' s methods of conception and execution- -Accident Shapes and Gestures, the influence of dance-- Land scape , a color-field painting in time--Wet Paint--Fragments .

TAPE NUMBER: IV, Side Two (December 16, 1977) 121

More on Fragments Rumble--Engel ' s working methods--v7orki ng through instincts rather than formulas- -Swan The hazards of the computer film-- Three Arctic Flowers--Engel ' s work with computer graph ics--Coaraze_, a live-action film--Use of still photography in Coaraze--Coara2e wins Prix Vigo and numerous other awards--No commercial distributor opts to handle Coaraze .

TAPE NUMBER: V, Side One (December 22, 1977) 138

Oskar Fischinger--Fischinger ' s isolation within the Disney Studios--Los Angeles avant-garde painters and animators in 1940s--Fischinger ' s last years at Disney--More on Engel's teaching at Cal Arts Disney trustees and the founding of Cal Arts--The evolution and success of the Cal Arts animation program--Engel ' s teaching methods.

TAPE NUMBER: V, Side Two (December 22, 1977) 163

More on teaching at Cal Arts--Student interaction at Cal Arts--Teaching approaches--Kathy Rose, Dennis Pies, and Adam Beckett--On establishing rapport with students--Women in animation.

VI

TAPE NUMBER: VI, Side One (December 30, 1977) 191

Preparation for work on live-action films The Ivory Knife, capturing the environment of the painter Paul Jenkins--Colla'oorat ion with Irving Bazilon on film score--Interaction with Jenkins The Torch and the Torso--Working with Miguel Berrocal--Structural and thematic relations between drama and painting--Mew York 100, the work of John Hultberg Light Motion Max Bill-- Technical considerations in live-action film-- June Wayne and the Tamarind workshop--Engel ' s introduction to li thography--Working environment at Tamarind.

TAPE NUMBER: VI, Side Two (December 30, 1977) 219

More on June Wayne and Tamarind V7orkshop The Look of a Lithographer--Ken Tyler and Gemini Editions, Ltd. --Robert Rauschenberg , Jasper Johns, Claes Oldenburg, and Frank Stella work at Gemini--Cirrus Editions--Engel ' s lithographic work--Engel on the status of film as an art form--Is film a "medium of consequence"?

TAPE NUMBER: VII, Side One (February 16, 1978) 246

Childhood interest in abstraction Family background First encounters with the work of Kandinsky Engel's working methods--Connect ions between the mediums in which Engel works--Sngel ' s relations with dealers: Paul Kantor, Esther Robles, Felix Landau, and Irving Blum More on limits of Los Angeles as an art center Comparisons with New York.

TAPE NUMBER: VII, Side Two, (April 1, 1978) .....273

More on interest in abstraction The "Four Abstract Classicists" show at Los Angeles County Museum--A developmental survey of the phases of Engel's artistic career--Establishing depth with color The straight line Engel's love of urban life--Living and working in Los Angeles Animation, painting, lithography, and film Future directions for Engel Future trends for young artists and filmmakers The bankruptcy of magic realism.

Index ........300

VI 1

«

I

I

INTRODUCTION

Jules Engel (born in Budapest, Hungary, 1913) came to the United States when he was thirteen years old. He began painting in a hard-edged geometrical style while a high school student in Evanston, Illinois. "I already had a very definite idea," Engel states in the following interview, "that, for me, going out and drawing landscapes or still lifes was not quite the idea what drawing or painting should be. Now, if you ask me where this idea comes from, I have no idea. But my feeling was then that if I would take an empty piece of paper and draw a line or two on it, even if I put a circle in a square on the paper, that that could be a drawing, and that could be enough. And that should be enough." (p. 7)

Immediately after graduating from high school in 1937, Engel came to Los Angeles. He worked briefly for Charles Mintz Studios, then Engel apprenticed at Walt Disney Studios. The studio assigned him to work on Fantasia , and he choreographed the Chinese and Russian dance sequences for the Nutcracker Suite section of that film. In these two sequences, Engel innovated the use of black-background animation. He v/as then selected to do color continuity and color keying on Bambi. Engel, however, was not happy with

VI 1 1

what he considered the restrictive creative environment at Disney and left to join the armed services after the United States entered World War II. Engel spent the war years assigned to Hal Roach Studios in Culver City, making training and educational films for the Air Force Motion Picture Unit.

After the war Engel went to work for the newly formed United Productions of America (UPA). He began as a designer but by 1950 he had become art director for all UPA productions. He teamed up with the late Robert Cannon to create Gerald McBoing-Boing , Madeline , Christopher Crumpet, and Jaywalker , plus a feature film "starring" UPA's Mister Magoo character. Engel and the other talents working at UPA changed the look of commercial animated filmmaking by adapting the artistic concepts of contemporary artists as varied as Dufy, Duchamps, Matisse, Kandinsky, and Klee.

In 1959, Engel left UPA to open with Herb Klynn a commercial animation studio. Format Films. Engel produced and art directed the Academy Award-nominated film, Icarus Montgofier Wright (1960), from a script by Ray Bradbury. Engel then went to Paris in 1962 and directed The World of Sine , featuring the work of French cartoonist Sine; this film received France's "La Belle Qualite" award.

The next film which Engel directed in Europe was Coroaze, made in the French town of Coroaze in 1965.

IX

I

I

p. Adams Sitney, writing on this film for Filmex, argues that this film is the "most impressive of [Engel's] nonanimated films . . . Coroaze utilizes high contrast black and white photography to outline the sculptural volume in Engel's view of the medieval townscape. Stills are freely incorporated in this film, at times in direct antithesis to the movement on the screen, but more often to indicate the ambiguity between the photograph and the filmed image of an empty street. In this carefully controlled optical universe the camera must seek out human activity to determine the status of its images. Engel's painterly eye dwells upon the tiled rooftops and the strong horizontals of the stone steps. By rapidly shifting the camera angles and recomposing these objects, he is able to draw 'graphic choreography' from them." ("American Independent Animation: Perspectives/ Jules Engel," The 1978 Los Angeles International Film Exposition) Coroaze won the highest award given by French film critics, the Prix Jean Vigo.

While living in France, Engel coproduced and codirected with Raymond Jerome the stage production of Antoine de Saint ExupSry's The Little Prince, which ran for several seasons in Paris, Rome, and Brussels. He also designed the sets for Le Jouex, an avant-garde play produced in Paris.

Engel has made several films on artists and their

work. In 1966, he directed a study of Spanish sculptor i4iguel Berrocal, The Torch and Torso. He directed a film for Tamarind Lithography Workshop, The Look of the Lithographer (1968). Other films on art and artists are American Sculpture of the Sixties (1968), New York 100 (1967), and Max Bill (1976).

Throughout a lengthy and successful career in both commercial and independent filmmaking, Engel has produced paintings, sculptures, drawings, and lithographs. He has had several one-man shows in Los Angeles, New York, and Europe. His art work is in the permanent collections of the Chicago Art Institute, the Hirshhorn Collection, the Rockefeller Collection, and the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.

Engel he did not intensively explore his ideas for experimental films until the 1960s, and his most "painterly" films were made in the 1970s. In Landscape (1971), Accident (1973), Train Landscape (1973), Shapes and Gestures (1976), Rumble (1977), Fragments of Movement (1977), and Wet Paint (1977), Engel has created pure abstractions which explore the movement potentials of lines and masses, optical conflicts, color and depth illusions, color-field concepts, and the single line. Engel calls these films paintings in motion or "graphic choreography." In 1977, in the magazine New, Engel wrote

XI

that his emphasis in these films is "on the development of a visual dynamic language, independent of literature and theatrical traditions, demonstrating that pure graphic choreography is capable of its own wordless truth."

Since 1969, Engel has been chairman of the Department of Animation/Experimental Film at the California Institute of the Arts. Engel in the following interview emphasizes the cross-fertilization that exists between painting and filmmaking in both his teaching and his creative work, but he says, "I have taken more from the painting world into the film that I've been doing, rather than the other way. . When we are talking animation, we have to realize that we're talking about painting in motion." (pp. 291-292)

XI 1

INTERVIEW HISTORY

INTERVIEWERS:

Tapes I-III, Milton Zolotow, graphic designer; Tapes IV-VII, Lawrence Weschler, assistant editor, UCLA Oral History Program, B.A., Philosophy and Cultural History, University of California, Santa Cruz.

TIME AND SETTING OF INTERVIEW:

Places ; Engel's home in Beverly Hills; Engel's studio/office at the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia, California; and the Charles Aidikoff Screening Room in Beverly Hills.

Dates : December 29, 1975; January 23, May 19, 1976; December 16, 22, 30, 1977; February 16 and April 1, 1978.

Length of sessions and total number of recording hours: Interview sessions were conducted at various times of day. They averaged between forty-five and ninety minutes. A total of approximately nine hours of conversation was recorded.

Persons present during the interview: Tapes I-III, Engel and Zolotow; Tapes IV-VII, Engel and Weschler.

CONDUCT OF INTERVIEW:

There was a one and a half year gap between the work of the original interviewer, Milton Zolotow, and that of the interviewer for the final four tapes, Lawrence Weschler.

Zolotow's approach was chronological and followed the course of Engel's life and work as an artist. Weschler began his sessions by viewing some of Engel's experimental films and having Engel discuss them. Further sessions focused on themes which explored in depth the range of Engel's creative activities. In several instances Engel returned to topics previously discussed with Zolotow, in particular Engel's interest in abstract art, his years at Disney Studios and UPA, and his present teaching position at Cal Arts.

EDITING:

Lawrence Weschler edited the entire interview. He checked the verbatim transcript of the interview against the

Xlll

original tape recordings and edited for spelling, punctuation, paragraphing, and verified spelling of proper nouns. Words and phrases inserted for clarity by the editor have been bracketed.

Engel reviewed and approved the edited transcript. He made no changes or deletions in the manuscript.

Richard Candida Smith, principal editor, wrote the introduction. George Hodak, editorial assistant, prepared the index and the table of contents.

SUPPORTING DOCUMENTS:

The original tape recordings of the interview are in the university archives and are available under the regulations governing the use of permanent noncurrent records of the university. Records relating to the interview are located in the office of the UCLA Oral History Program. . ..

XIV

TAPE NUMBER: I, SIDE ONE DECEMBER 29, 1975

ZOLOTOW: Now, one of the first things they [UCLA Oral History Program] were interested in establishing is v/here you came from, how you got here. Where 'd you come from? [laughter]

ENGEL: Where 'd I come from? I was born in Budapest, Hungary, and I came to this country as a citizen, because my mother was already here for some time. So as I said, when I came over, I came over as an American citizen, because she was already a citizen. ZOLOTOW: How old were you?

ENGEL: I think about thirteen. I landed in Evanston, Illinois, which was a lucky thing for me, because it's a lovely place, and the people were very kind to me. They really looked after me in anything and everything. They made sure that my presence was comfortable. Naturally, I spoke not a word of English, so I attended some night school. But I was also able to enter a high school in Evanston. I guess I already was showing some signs of drawing talent, but they wanted me also because I showed promise in athletics. I became one of their star athletes. ZOLOTOW: What sports were you interested in? ENGEL: Track. I'd run anything from the 400 up. ZOLOTOW: Still run?

ENGEL: No, no, no. I don't like to run for fun. No, let me take that back. For me, it's competition; that was good. But the running aspect of it, the whole athletic aspect of it for me, was a natural thing; it was just part of my body, my body rhythm. And I was pretty damn good at it, I guess, because I was the track captain, and I broke, oh, about a dozen high school records. But to me, the good thing was that I enjoyed it. Your body can function like an animal. In other words, you have your head and your body, and running, jumping, and all, that was where the body was in motion. To me that was a very good thing. So I guess because of that and the drawing, the people at Evans ton were really very, very beautiful, and, really, I think I was lucky to land there because of the care that they showed toward me. ZOLOTOW: Then where ' d you go?

ENGEL: Then from there I took off to Hollywood. ZOLOTOW: Direct?

ENGEL: Yes. I just got on a bus and I came out here. I only knew one person out here, because I met somebody back in Chicago who gave me the address. Of course, the whole thing is a little vague now. But what happened was that I landed out here and I went to see this one person, and there wasn't much there; but then he recommended me to go see somebody at the Chamber of Commerce of Hollywood. I

saw this other man, and he said to me, "You know, you're a very nice chap. I'll tell you what I'll do for you. I'll give you the money that it would take for you to get back to Evanston, Illinois. You should go back. You are a nice fellow, and I really want to help you. Why don't you go back?" [laughter]

ZOLOTOW: He didn't want to wish Hollywood on you, huh? ENGEL : And so that was my big contact. ZOLOTOW: How old were you, Jules?

ENGEL: I was seventeen. And then I had an introduction to an artist; I think I got that from a high school teacher of mine. I had the address, so after this man at the Chamber of Commerce had given me the money to go back home to Evanston, I then decided to look up this artist. And that was something that bugged me already then, because the word artist--I had no idea what the hell I'm going to get into.

I was near the place that this man was living. He was living, as I remember, near Hollywood and Highland, somewhere there. I saw a man on a corner painting a land- scape. He kept holding the pencil up in one hand, you know, looking through for perspective or something.

And I said, "Oh, no, shit if that's the guy, oh boy, I'm already in bad shape." Because at that time already I had ideas, and I thought, "No, my God, if that's him "

Anyway, I had no choice. I had to go to his apartment. Well, it wasn't him--it was another man, luckily, but he was also a strange one. He painted landscapes of Arizona, and then he would go up there. He painted the landscapes here, and then he would go up to Arizona and sell them there. He did extremely well. Now, he was the guy who knew somebody at the Charles Mintz Studio. ZOLOTOW: Do you remember his name?

ENGEL: I think his name was [Ken] Strobel. He painted landscapes of Arizona. He knew somebody at the Charles Mintz Studio. He recommended me there, because I had no way of making a living, really. I was very good at doing pen-and- ink drawings at that time.

ZOLOTOW: Had you had any training, at this point? ENGEL: I had very little at the high school. I had like four years of art school. I went to Evans ton Academy. (Evanston had a kind of art school called Evanston Academy of Fine Art.) As a high school student, I would go there evenings and draw, m.ostly designs and that sort of thing. They would set up the material for a still life and so forth. ZOLOTOW: Were any of the original teachers any good? ENGEL: Well, I don't recall that I had too many teachers, really. I mean that person there set up the still life, and I would draw from it.

But now I have to get around to a certain point. I

have to be very specific here. To get back to Strobel, he knew somebody at the Charles Mintz Studio, so he introduced me. But the thing that he asked me was, he would give me some photographs of the desert scene, and I would then draw pen-and-ink drawings of that, as I was very good at pen-and- ink, as I said. So I would be there six o'clock in the morning, and I would draw these pen-and-ink drawings of landscapes for him until eight. ZOLOTOW: Did he sign them?

ENGEL: [laughter] You're ahead of me. I did about a dozen. I went there for months and months and months in the morning. A year or two later, I don't know how I picked up a magazine, Arizona magazine, but, by God, there were my pen-and-ink drawings, and he signed them. Of course, it was a kind of a compliment to me, because this was a mature painter, a very "fine painter" with a big studio here, and yet my pen-and- ink drawings were good enough for him to sign them. Then I find out later that he also colored some--you know, put color over the prints. I was not angry at the man, because he did introduce me to the Charles Mintz Studio, which gave me the first job. So in a sense, I felt that he did me a favor, and I did him a favor, although I wish to hell I had those drawings now. Just the reproduction, just to prove the point. He was a kind of real wheeler-dealer. He never paid for anything.

ZOLOTOW: Well, maybe we can track the drawing down. What

magazine were they in?

ENGEL: I think it's called Arizona.

ZOLOTOW: Okay, well, maybe we can get some researchers to

work on it and see if we can track them down.

ENGEL: I remember definitely I saw one of these drawings

in a magazine with his name under it. Oh, what the hell,

it ' s long ago.

ZOLOTOW: What'd you do for Charles Mintz when you started

there?

ENGEL: Well, you could only do one thing entering that

animation studio, and that was to join as an apprentice. I

was apprentice animator, what they call an "in-betweener . "

Aside from that, I used to take a lot of layout drawings;

then I would go over them with my lines to get it ready for

the background department to paint. I had a kind of a nice

line that they liked, so I would take some very rough drawings,

go over them, and trace them for background. The big thing

as apprentice, "in-betweener," was that you're going toward

animation.

But you asked me something which is very important--if at that time when I was going to Academy of Fine Arts in Evanston, if I had teachers of consequence. Well, now, you see, this is the very strange thing that I have to explain. It might sound as if I am not telling the truth, but this is

the truth. When I was in high school, I already had a

very definite idea that, for me, going out and drawing

landscapes or still lifes was not quite the idea what

drawing or painting should be. Now, if you ask me where

this idea comes from, I have no idea. But my feeling was

then that if I would take an empty piece of paper and draw

a line or two on it, even if I put a circle in a square on

the paper, that that could be a drawing, and that could be

a piece of art. And that should be enough.

ZOLOTOW: Was there anyone that encouraged you in this?

ENGEL : No, nobody encouraged me, because at that time I'd

never even seen anything like it. I never saw anything

except-- Because when you grow up in Budapest, and you go

to museums on Sundays , you go and see the Rubens and

Rembrandts and Titians . But my point of view was already

that there must be more to painting and drawing than just

what I have seen. In other words, that you should be able

to just put anything on a piece of paper of your own invention,

imagination, and that should be art.

And the strange thing is that in high school, because I already had a very large presence as a draftsman, or drawer, my high school teacher, somehow And I don't think she really knew much about things, but I remember that the class would go out in the field to draw the trees, and she said, "No, you can stay in the room, and you do what you want to do." I

still don't understand why she would let that happen, but I remember everybody had to go. And I would stay in the room and draw my circles and squares and lines. She went along with that, and yet I don't think she knew what the hell I was doing, because I was doing things out of my head. So this is how I began. I wanted to make this point, since at that early time, the basic concept of what my art would be was already there.

ZOLOTOW: Can you trace back and place where you were exposed to nonf igurative art?

ENGEL: No. I told you there was no such thing. This is why, when people say that you have to have those other ingredients, I have to get back to myself and say, "It's not so." I say, "At that age, I had these concepts, and I made those drawings in high school." I remember when we had to do portfolios and put covers on them and make the designs, I was always drawing squares and triangles and stuff like that, filling up the space. I felt that that was already an expression, and that should be art.

Now if I were to go back, I have to go back to certain experiences which at that time were strange. I remember when I saw-- I was in an artist's studio once, and I was about twelve, eleven, maybe twelve, thirteen, very little. That man was painting, and he was an artist. How I got there, I don't know. But I remember he had a big picture

on his wall. It had kind of like a kitchen, and three dogs were chasing; and one dog was on the top of the stairs, one was in the middle, and one was already on the landing. What fascinated me, already then, was not the dogs but the fact that there was all that space underneath the dogs. And that fascinated me. That space underneath the dogs. Not the dogs. The space. (And it had some lines.) Now, this was the first time, as I think back, that I said to myself, "That's inter- esting." At that time, I was aware of that and it captivated me .

Another thing I was aware of when I saw the Rubens and the Rembrandts and Titians was, you had a head which was enormously well painted, and you would have a hand which was well painted, but then you had a whole section of the canvas where you saw the brushwork. That brushwork fascinated me to the point where I said, "I like that better than the head. I see the canvas coming through and the rough feeling of the brush stroke. If I could frame it, for me, that's a painting."

I can make one more point, which to me is more interesting today than it was then. I was never aware of cars, of auto- mobiles. I couldn't tell one car from another. I'm pretty good at that now. But I remember (I was again around that age) I came around a corner with my friends, and I saw a car which stopped me cold. For the first time, I noticed a car. I noticed a car, and it really was an experience. What grabbed me

was the front of the car, the enormous simplicity. Again, as I say, at that early time, I asked my friends what it was. And that's the first time that I ever wanted to know what a car was. It v;as simply that I liked the front. It had the kind of a structure that I reacted to. And what the hell do you think it was? It was a Rolls-Royce. But the Rolls-Royce front had that classical shape. Later in time, I realized these things that there was a gut reaction you can't explain. But why did I react to that shape? I never cared for a car, and I never looked at a car. When I saw that, I said to myself, "My God, that is something."

So somehow I come to a very early point here, or conclusion--I reacted because I had to. Sometimes you do in life what you have to do 1 In other words, all these things later were very obvious, and you see I_ had no choice.

Now, this idea of having no choice is present in a lot of people. I remember listening to Jacques Tati a couple of years ago, and I asked him why he makes comedy. Tati simply answered, "I have no choice."

Now, I have heard that from other people, and sometimes that no choice comes very early. But the fact that I saw that Rolls-Royce and that structure; saw the dogs and the space underneath the dogs; saw the Rubens, the Rembrandts, the Titians, and those large areas in the canvas where you just see texture I was drawn to all that at a very early time. But I never studied abstract paintings when all

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these things were happening, but already my thinking was coinciding with those things. And yet they were not abstractions they were part of a painting, or part of an object that I had an immediate simpatico with. So I know it might sound silly, what I'm saying now, but this is the way that all my work is started.

ZOLOTOW: When you got into film, did you feel a contradic- tion between what film was asking you to do and your own impulse to create the forms that you were interested in? ENGEL: Well, no. At first, when I got in there, I didn't worry about that, because it gave me the first opportunity to be in a professional environment, an environment where things can happen. I wanted to get in there. I didn't care how I'd get in there just as long as I got in there. And then what was going to happen later, of course, I could do something about. But, you see, my first big impact of the world of the arts, in my gut, was when I saw the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. Then I saw, for the first time, music, movement, dancing, painting--all those things combined. So that was the thing that propelled me to get into an environ- ment where I could function on all those levels. ZOLOTOW: You're decribing two forces, then: the inner force toward a certain formalism, then this external force, the richness of full drama-art. Both these were working on you.

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ENGEL : But that was the biggest impression on me as a young person; because there, for the first time, I saw the direction I might want to involve myself in. The sense of movement always interested me--I mean, the sense of movement as in dancing. That from the first always interested me, and it was already part of me. But again, you see, in the dancer's movement you have enormous simplicity. You have structure, but you have the simplicity, because you can't lie with movement. When you move, you don't lie. You have no choice. When you make with the words, you can say things that somebody else will come and say, "No, he means that." ZOLOTOW: What do you mean, Jules? Aren't there phony dancers?

ENGEL: I'm not talking about phony dancers. I'm talking about, for instance, athletes and the Martha Grahams and the Ballet Russe. I mean, when a man runs, he runs, and that's all there is to it. When a man jumps for a ball, and he wants to put it into a basket, he jumps. And no one can come up and explain, now, well, he meant this or that. And you're going to say something, and five other people will interpret what you're saying. But if I run a 100-yard dash, no one can interpret this: I am either going to get there before you do, or you are going to get there before I do . So in that area of movement, you can

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have this enormous simplicity and directness. It is a kind of total expression. And in my work, my early thinking was that when you got to a line, it's a kind of statement with enormous simplicity.

Where these things came from, you see, is what we're talking about here. Where it came from, it came from my gut, and from no place else. And this is why often, when people say you need this and this and that to arrive to this thing, I don't think so. Because my whole experience in my life has always been against that. In other words, when I had a concept--

I remember in high school, they were putting on a stage performance. I was very much involved in that scene. And I recommended not to use anything as a set, just to use a bench, a table, and a chair. They looked at me like I was out of my mind. But then, five or ten years later they were doing Our Town, where they did nothing but use a chair or a table. But where the hell did this come from? I don't know where the hell it came from. All I can tell you is that these things are possible, that it can come from a person without his ever being exposed to anything of that sort.

ZOLOTOW: It seemed to arise simultaneously in a lot of people at the same time. ENGEL: That happens. But I wanted to just make this

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point and this is kind of a large statement that if pure nonobjective art had never existed before my present, it would have arrived because I would have been doing it. Of course, people have a lot of art school, and then they have all the teachers, and they're exposed to a lot of things--but that's something else. But when you arrived at those things and you've never been exposed to anything like that and you just do it, well, that is something else, And maybe that's why, when I am looking at nonobjective work, I often feel that the stuff is not right, because it doesn't not that it doesn't really come from the gut, the heart, but the person has no feel for it. If you have a feel for it, it should be as natural on the canvas as when Cezanne put an apple on the canvas.

ZOLOTOW: And yet when you got into film, you didn't feel unnatural doing representational images.

ENGEL: No, never, because then I was in another terrain, and I had to go along with that aspect of it. Let's say at the Charles Mintz-- Although the Charles Mintz studio experience for me was a disaster because of the people's lack of sensitivity of what the world was doing, I realized then that there was nothing I can do about that, because I'm a young fellow, I'm a beginner and I'd better keep my mouth shut. Which I believe at certain times is what you're supposed to do. But the whole place was

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very anti-intellectual, anti-sensitive to art, anti-art, anti-culture. I mean, people were doing that because it was a job, but not with passion, not with tenderness. ZOLOTOW : Do you remember the year that this was? ENGEL: Well, it had to be '38 and '39, see. But by that time, around that time, I was exposed for the first time to comtemporary art. I think the first one that I saw was here in Los Angeles, either a book or something that I saw, a Kandinsky. And POW! That opened the whole vista. And also what was interesting about it,