The Quays are American-born identical twin animators who work out of London but whose work has a strong Eastern European flavor. I first came across their work one late night on a PBS station while channel surfing. It took about three seconds to realize I was watching something that was an extraordinary, one-of-a-kind experience. "Street of Crocodiles" was a strange epic in miniature, depicting a subterranean world where wooden dolls are brought to life through impossibly graceful stop-motion animation. In it, a silent man explores this enchanting but virtually unknowable place of brownish shop interiors and inanimate objects set into symbolic motion through the wonders of reverse time lapse photography. This Kafkaesque type of journey is typical of the Quays' work. Oftentimes their art seems to be a what a visualization of the subconscious would look like--and oftentimes it's just as hard to decipher.
This collection is so valuable because for so long the Quay Brothers have been under-represented on video. Another gem included here is "The Cabinet of Jan Svankmajer", named after the Czech animator who is their biggest influence ("Alice", his fabulist revision of the Wonderland story, is also not to be missed). "Cabinet", a parable of a child's education, is more lighthearted than most of their work and is filled with some of the brothers' most sumptuous visual poetry. "Rehearsals for Extinct Anatomies" and their pieces on painting and opera are also great. Not for everyone, but adventurous lovers of film, animation and the avant-garde should not miss out on the bizarre and beautiful world of the Quay Brothers. And with this comprehensive collection available, there's no reason not to.
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