Tales of the Brothers Quay | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Tales of the Brothers Quay


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The Quay brothers, American identical twins who live in London, have created some of the most visually stunning animation I've ever seen. Miniature sets and dolls create a fantasy world with a not easily predictable set of rules. There are no smooth surfaces or naturalistic rhythms in these films: their jagged stop-start animation points to animation's--and cinema's--essential nature as a series of stills. This effect is enhanced by an irregular visual surface: we cut to extreme closeups of tiny objects that enhance their smallness. Here we are worlds apart from Hollywood cinema, where miniatures are used to produce life-size illusion. One of the Quays' best films, The Comb, represents the world of a dreamer with a tiny rectangular passageway surrounded by labyrinthine side openings that lead to an image of miniature nature, a kind of picture-window view of an artificial landscape that is continually rediscovered in camera movements and focus changes. This image beautifully expresses the shifting, untranslatable subjectivity that pervades all of the Quays' work. Music Box, Friday through Thursday, June 4 through 10.

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