How does one fully explain or quantify the bizarre, surreal and disquieting work of animators The Brothers Quay? Filmmaker Christopher Nolan gives it a shot on the new Blu-ray release “The Quay Brothers: Collected Short Films” (released on November 24, 2015). The collection of all their short films is topped off by “Quay,” Nolan’s documentary short (originally featured in the theatrical release “The Quay Brothers in 35mm”) that showcases the brother’s uniquely arcane style of stop-motion puppetry.
And it proves that they are as suitably ethereal and odd as one would expect. The duo-raised in Philadelphia, but now reside in Britain-have a dialect and halting form of speech that sounds completely alien, giving cryptic comments about their painstaking art-form, ultimately leaving the mystery of their craft intact, while allowing an evocative peek behind the curtain.
The collection is the most comprehensive Quay Brothers release to date, featuring 15 shorts, including art-pieces like the moody masterpiece “Street of Crocodiles,” (which has influenced pretty much every Tool video to date) and ‘The Cabinet of Jan Svankmajer’, along with music videos for His Name is Alive “Stille Nacht II (Are We Still Married?),” and even educational pieces like “Anamoprhosis.” All shorts have sleek and impressive film to digital transfers (supervised by the Quay’s themselves).
It helps to immerse the viewer in their weird and wonderful world more so than ever before: the bizarre textures, the hypnotic focus shifts, the sleepwalking camera movements, the decayed doll parts and dandelion fuzziness, the odd mix of whimsical and terrifying, all cast a bewitching spell that is utterly unique. And even after watching Nolan’s doc, it still instills a “how did they do that?” sense of wonder.
Accompanying the shorts are several commentaries from the Quay’s which proves as educational and illusory as Nolan’s short, and a 30-page booklet which includes a glossary of all things Quay, and an essay by film critic Michael Atkinson. All of which results in an art installation worthy Blu-ray package, that arrives just in time as a holiday gift for the most discerning and quirky cineaste.
In an era of CGI-wizardry, it’s more important than ever to celebrate 3-dimensional filmmaking with a human touch, and this film collection proves that the Quay’s homegrown organic animation is far more awe-inspiring than anything a computer could ever conjure. You can order “The Quay Brothers: Collected Short Films” on Amazon by clicking here.