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Stunning and opaque nightmare
2 January 2006
Devotees of Jan Svankmajer and Kafka, identical twins Stephen and Timothy Quay distill every disturbing dream you've ever had into a decidedly unsettling short film. American by birth, the twins seem European by sensibility and have settled in London to make their films. Street of Crocodiles is one of their better known efforts and is obliquely influenced by Polish writer Bruno Schulz, who published the memoirs of his solitary life under the title, Sklepy Cynamonowe (literally translated as The Cinnamon Shops, although generally known in the English speaking world as Street of Crocodiles). The Quay's short follows a gaunt puppet who is released from his strings as he explores his bizarre surroundings: rooms full of dark shadows, unexplained machinery and strange eyeless dolls. Everything has a sense of decay and Victorian melancholy. There is a notion of a plot, possibly dealing with sexual tension, but really Street of Crocodiles is about establishing a mood and a nightmarish and deeply sinister world. The Quay's use of tracking shots and selective focus is unparallelled in the world of stop motion.
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