Films by the Brothers Quay | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Films by the Brothers Quay

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These two excellent programs collect short puppet animations by Stephen and Timothy Quay, identical twins from Pennsylvania who studied at Britain's Royal College of Art in the late 60s. They were heavily influenced by Czech animators like Jan Svankmajer and the Russian pioneer Wladyslaw Starewicz (who used animal and insect remains as materials), but their cryptic, mostly black-and-white films are more musical and surreal, discarding narrative for a nightmare world of fine-art references, destabilized perspectives, and animated objects that mock the human form. The stellar first program (73 min.) focuses on the body: in The Cabinet of Jan Svankmajer (1984) the venerable animator appears as a robotic character with a splayed book for a head of hair, emptying rags from the top of a doll's skull; in the acclaimed Street of Crocodiles (1986) the protagonist is taken apart and reassembled by a gang of dolls with vacant eye sockets; and in the terrifying Rehearsals for Extinct Anatomies (1988) there's a birdlike creature composed of drafting tools. The second program (71 min.) has some gems as well: The Comb (1988) explores a gorgeous Escher-like catacomb of ladders and crimson wood, and the creepy Stille Nacht music videos (including two for His Name Is Alive) highlight the brothers' more primal emotions. a Program I: Fri 1/5, 8 PM, Sat 1/6, 5 PM, Mon 1/8, 6:15 PM, Thu 1/11, 8 PM; Program II: Sat 1/6, 6:30 PM, Sun 1/7, 5 PM, Tue 1/9, 8 PM, Wed 1/10, 6:15 PM; Gene Siskel Film Center.

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