"Mina stumbled and fell headlong into her apartment, smacking her knees and the palms of her hands on the hardwood floor. She bit her lip, cursed, resisted the temptation to cry. Rubbing her bruised joints, she turned to see what had tripped her."
And we're off. Those are the opening lines of Jürgen Fauth's rollicking debut novel, Kino, and the tale, told through lost-and-found journals, frantic emails and late night soliloquies, hurls Mina and the reader from that New York apartment to contemporary Berlin, the Berlin of the Weimar Era, sun-baked Hollywood and a film set on a beach in Mexico where the cast and crew pretty much go collectively insane. What Mina's stumbled over, we learn in a few brisk pages, are canisters containing the reels of a film long thought lost, made some eight decades previous by the grandfather she knows too little about, Klaus Koblitz, known in his day by his nickname, Kino. The film is Tulpendiebe (The Tulip Thief) and that's its trailer up there.
Jürgen is proving to be as clever, fun and inventive as a promoter as he is as a writer, and I suppose that it's here that I should note that Jürgen and his wife, Marcy Dermansky — also a novelist! Twins! Bad Marie! — are friends. Which doesn't disqualify me from telling you that I had a damn good time reading Kino. The outlandish storyline is matched by outlandish ideas, among them the suggestion that cinema harbors borderline supernatural powers.
It's not just that Kino, as a filmmaker, was evidently more than a little talented. A first viewing of Tulpendiebe by one specialist prompts him to gush, "Incredible, just incredible. The visual storytelling anticipates Cocteau and Welles. For 1927, for a man of his age, your grandfather's grasp of the possibilities of cinema was astounding. History books will have to be rewritten. If we can show that DeMille and Abel Gance saw this movie, we will have to reevaluate their innovations." Mastery of the craft is one thing, but making films that just might be able to predict the future is going to rouse the interest of some awfully powerful and awfully shadowy figures.
Jürgen's got a tumblr rolling by the name of Tulpendiebe (with its own Twitter account, of course), wherein he tells us that this trailer "was assembled by remix artist Ivan Guerrero, known for his 'premakes' of films such as Up! (1965), The Avengers (1952), and The Empire Strikes Back (1950)." He also gives us "the recipe of period films Ivan used to create The Tulip Thief." Recently, Mina herself put out a call to "like-minded souls to help me extend my grandfather's legacy and create something larger than Jürgen Fauth's novel, which, after all, tells only one version of the story." The adventure in this rediscovery is far from over.
Interviews with Jürgen: Michael Stein and Used Furniture. And another excerpt from Kino, "Lang's Dragon."