Sunday, October 4, 2015

Christopher Nolan presents "The Quay Brothers in 35mm" at SIFF Cinema: Oct 9 - 15

Opening for a weeklong run at SIFF Cinema, Christopher Nolan presents a new series of restorations of "The Quay Brothers in 35mm" which follows a few years on from MoMA's retrospective of their work, Quay Brothers: On Deciphering the Pharmacist's Prescription for Lip-Reading Puppets. Although Stephen and Timothy Quay are well known in gallery circles in Europe, this was only the second show of their work in the United States. The first in 2010, was an exhibition of the Décors (the miniature stage sets used in their animations) in Parsons New School for Design's Dormitorium: Film Decors by the Quay Bros. Describing "A Universe Like Ours, Only Weirder" Roberta Smith's review of the retrospective for the New York Times, touched on the Quay's filmmography of decidedly analog, textural, interior worlds locked within the mechanisms of time, history and decay. But Christopher Nolan goes further still in describing their uncanny art of "Quay Twins: Spinning Magic from Marginalia" and the deeply cinematic microverses contained in their work.

Hermetic in the extreme, like the work of their mentor, Jan Švankmajer the dreamworlds in which their animated films are set draw from, more often than not, traditions in Eastern European literature. Bruno Schulz' "Street of Crocodiles" wherein the Quays spun their own thematically similar political allegory and the locale for Robert Walser's "Jakob von Gunten" which became the spookily somnambulistic setting of their "Institute Benjamenta, or This Dream that One Calls Human Life" and their peeling away to the tale's core, revealing of it's mysterious, metaphysical interior. All their works explore through objects, dust and decay a hidden universe of unnerving poetry that lies within forgotten, disused and abandoned spaces and the haunting echoes of civilizations past. Coded into their journeys through these worlds are apparitional encounters channeled through cryptic symbolism, often as messages issuing from beyond the pale. Theirs might be the greatest example in modern cinema of a Art of Ruins and it's in these landscapes that they chronicle their protagonist's pursuit of the metaphysical unknowable. Senses of Cinema delve deeper as they always do in a series of discussions from 2002, "Through a Glass Darkly: Interview with the Quay Brothers" and in their analysis of what many consider the Quay's defining work, one which Terry Gilliam rated among The 10 Best Animated Films of All Time, opening their "Fetish, Filth and Childhood: Walking Down The Street of Crocodiles" with a fittingly haunting choice of quote from Walter Benjamin's "The Arcades Project".