The Null Device

The Brothers Quay

Film Festival: This afternoon, I went along to the screening of a collection of animations by the Brothers Quay. The brothers, for those not in the know, are reclusive American-born identical twins based in England, and known for their surreal animations, which are rather inspired by eastern European animators (such as Jan Svankmajer). A lot of their material is done on commission (including music videos and a MTV station ID), but is no less bizarre for that.

The screening had a number of short films, mostly made with models, puppets and such. Two of the animations (starring a stuffed toy rabbit and a vaguely monstrous little-girl mannequin) were videos for His Name Is Alive; they certainly had the 4AD look down pat, looking like the cinematic equivalent of v23's cover artwork. One was set to a piece by Karlheinz Stockhausen (whose atonal music matched the incomprehensibilist aesthetics of the brothers), and was about a woman in a mental hospital writing letters, never delivered, to her husband (or so I discovered at the end). Another was an exploration of anamorphism in painting, and was surprisingly comprehensible.

Which brings me to a point. At the risk of sounding like an uncultured philistine, I must say that I didn't enjoy the animations as much as I was hoping, because I found much of the stories pointless and incomprehensible. (In one, a homunculus is wobbling a ladder inside a vaguely Escheresque wooden structure. It droops, its hands become detached and start zooming the ladder back and forth along the landscape. Not once is the ladder used for anything other than moving around; one gets the feeling that either escape from or exploration of the structure would be futile because everything is ultimately meaningless in the Quays' worlds.) Though, I suppose it's an acquired taste, and connoiseurship makes anything interesting. Perhaps I should have read up on them beforehand.

I also bought a ticket for the Jeunet and Caro shorts coming up later in the festival. They should be good.

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