More Quays: Slow Time—Tempus Fugit

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This short video—officially released to YouTube by the makers of Leffe, a Belgian beer—is two films in one: Slow Time is a brief portrait of the Brothers Quay by Gary Tarn, more fleeting even than Christopher Nolan’s film; Tempus Fugit is an ad by the Quays for Leffe beer that’s more typical than many of their earlier commissions from the commercial world. The portrait is one of six promotional pieces that Leffe have made about artists. Belgian beer seems a fitting product for the Quays when you know that the production company they formed with Keith Griffith in 1979, Atelier Koninck, took its name from a Belgian beer mat.

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Tempus Fugit.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Inner Sanctums—Quay Brothers: The Collected Animated Films 1979–2013
Holzmüller and the Quays
Unmistaken Hands: Ex Voto F.H., a film by the Brothers Quay
Animation Magazine: The Brothers Quay
The Cabinet of Jan Svankmajer, a film by the Brothers Quay
More Brothers Quay scarcities
Eurydice…She, So Beloved, a film by the Brothers Quay
Inventorium of Traces, a film by the Brothers Quay
Maska: Stanislaw Lem and the Brothers Quay
Stille Nacht V: Dog Door
Quay Brothers: On Deciphering the Pharmacist’s Prescription for Lip-Reading Puppets
Brothers Quay scarcities
Crossed destinies revisited
Crossed destinies: when the Quays met Calvino
The Brothers Quay on DVD

Inner Sanctums—Quay Brothers: The Collected Animated Films 1979–2013

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In previous posts about the Quay Brothers’ films I’ve expressed a hope that we might see a new collection from the BFI that gathers together more of their recent works. That’s what we have now in a 2-disc Blu-ray set that will be released in the UK on 10th October.

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Quay (2015) directed by Christopher Nolan.

The new collection repeats the contents of the earlier BFI DVD set, The Short Films 1979–2003, while adding some of their recent commissions including Maska (2010), Through the Weeping Glass (2011), and Unmistaken Hands: Ex Voto F.H. (2013). Among the extras there’s a short portrait of the brothers, Quay (2015), directed by Christopher Nolan. This shows the Quays at work in their Southwark studio where they discuss the technical details of animation and puppet-making a little more than I’ve seen in other interviews. Nolan’s film is both beguiling and frustrating, the latter for being so inexplicably short. When I first saw Quay announced I thought it might be a feature-length documentary rather than a fleeting glimpse; the Quays have been interviewed regularly over the past few years so they’re not exactly unforthcoming. I’m hoping now that Nolan’s public enthusiasm for the brothers might at least help them to make another feature, a decade having elapsed since The Piano Tuner of Earthquakes (2005).

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Street of Crocodiles (1986).

As to the films, seeing them in high-definition is certainly a plus although the earliest ones were all made in 16mm so they don’t gain a great deal. Street of Crocodiles, however, looks superb, and I found myself noticing details that I’d earlier missed despite numerous viewings. I’m disappointed that two early shorts, Igor: The Paris Years (1982) and Leos Janácek: Intimate Excursions (1983), remain unreleased due to apparent problems with music copyrights. (See this post for YouTube links.) Also uncollected are their other music videos apart from the two produced for His Name Is Alive, together with a handful of other short pieces. (See this post for further links.)

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Street of Crocodiles (1986).

Of the longer films on the second disc, Maska has become a favourite, with its combination of a baroque science-fiction scenario (from Stanislaw Lem) and a score by Penderecki. Through the Weeping Glass, a 30-minute documentary about the medical oddities housed in the Mütter Museum in the Quays’ home city of Philadelphia, is a kind of companion piece to The Phantom Museum (2003), a similar study of the Wellcome Collection in London. This is the first film the Europhile Quays have made in the US, and comes with a short documentary showing them at work on the film, and an interview about the production. I’m still getting used to their shift to digital video—I miss the grain and texture of their films—but since I’ve been working digitally myself for many years now I can’t complain if others choose to do the same.

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The preview discs of the new collection came without the booklet which will be present in the package. This will include an updated Quays Dictionary by Michael Brooke (as featured in the previous BFI collection), and the 2012 “interview” by the deceased calligrapher Heinrich Holzmüller, On Deciphering the Pharmacist’s Prescription for Lip-Reading Puppets. The latter appeared in the catalogue for the Quays’ MoMA exhibition where it was printed at an eye-straining point size. I’m hoping the BFI version will be an improvement.

The Films
Nocturna Artificialia (1979)
The Cabinet of Jan Švankmajer (1984)
This Unnameable Little Broom (1985)
Street of Crocodiles (1986)
Rehearsals for Extinct Anatomies (1988)
Stille Nacht I: Dramolet (1988)
Ex-Voto (1989)
The Comb (1990)
Anamorphosis (1991)
The Calligrapher (Parts I, II, III) (1991)
Stille Nacht II: Are We Still Married? (1992)
Stille Nacht III: Tales from Vienna Woods (1993)
Stille Nacht IV: Can’t Go Wrong Without You (1994)
In Absentia (2000)
The Phantom Museum (2003)
Songs for Dead Children (2003)
Eurydice, She So Beloved (2007)
Alice in Not so Wonderland (2007)
Kinoteka Ident (2008)
Inventorium of Traces (2009)
Wonderwood for Comme des Garçons (2010)
Maska (2010)
Through the Weeping Glass (2011)
Unmistaken Hands: Ex Voto F.H. (2013)

Special features
Introduction by the Quay Brothers (2006, 20 mins)
Quay (2015, 8 mins): a film by Christopher Nolan
Quay Brothers audio commentaries for This Unnameable Little Broom, Street of Crocodiles, Stille Nacht I-III and In Absentia
The Falls [excerpt] (1980, 5 mins)
BFI Distribution ident (1991, 30 secs)
The Summit (1995, 12 mins)
No Bones About It: Quay Brothers (2010, 12 mins)
Behind the Scenes with the Quay Brothers (2013, 31 mins)
Unmistaken Hands: Ex Voto F.H. trailer (2 mins)

Previously on { feuilleton }
Holzmüller and the Quays
Unmistaken Hands: Ex Voto F.H., a film by the Brothers Quay
Animation Magazine: The Brothers Quay
The Cabinet of Jan Svankmajer, a film by the Brothers Quay
More Brothers Quay scarcities
Eurydice…She, So Beloved, a film by the Brothers Quay
Inventorium of Traces, a film by the Brothers Quay
Maska: Stanislaw Lem and the Brothers Quay
Stille Nacht V: Dog Door
Quay Brothers: On Deciphering the Pharmacist’s Prescription for Lip-Reading Puppets
Brothers Quay scarcities
Crossed destinies revisited
Crossed destinies: when the Quays met Calvino
The Brothers Quay on DVD

Weekend links 273

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Byronic I by Boris Pelcer. Via Full Fathom Five.

• “Music determines everything in terms of our narrative. Music demands, music suggests. Whereas traditional Hollywood animation is all based on character development—you know, there’s Toy Story and it’s Tom Hanks’s voice pushing the thrust of the action. For us, décor is all part of it. It’s the objects, a sense of atmosphere, the stimmung (mood) of what’s happening in this landscape where the puppet is just, invariably, a tiny element.” The Brothers Quay talking to JW McCormack about their films, and about Quay, a short documentary by Christopher Nolan.

• Croissants with Cthulhu: Stephanie Gorton Murphy reports on the Cthulhu Prayer Breakfast at last week’s NecronomiCon. I didn’t attend this: abject silliness is the last thing I want at 8 o’clock in the morning.

• “…a light daze for the rest of the afternoon, detrimental to studying but advantageous for daydreaming.” Italo Calvino on his cinema-going youth.

Only in that brief moment of absolute uncertainty – when both options seem equally plausible and implausible, when neither thought can be accepted or rejected, when everything can be explained and nothing can be explained – only in that moment do we really have this horror of philosophy, this questioning of the principle of sufficient reason. It is for this reason that Todorov qualifies his definition by stating that the “fantastic occupies the duration of this uncertainty.”

Eugene Thacker in an extract from Tentacles Longer Than Night (Horror of Philosophy, vol. 3), Zero Books, 2015

• It’s always good to hear some new rumblings by Emptyset. The Guardian has a stream of side 1 of the latest release, Signal.

• David Rudkin’s Penda’s Fen receives a film screening at the Whitechapel Gallery, London, on Saturday, 5th September.

Sea Calls Me Home, another song from the forthcoming Julia Holter album.

• Digital visualizations of imagined future landscapes by Mike Winkelmann.

• Mix of the week: The Ivy-Strangled Path Vol. IX by David Colohan.

• Cherchez la femme: Women and Surrealism at Sotheby’s, NYC.

• At It’s Nice That: 50 years of A Humument by Tom Phillips.

April 16, 1963: Housewife on LSD

Tentaclii: a Lovecraft blog

Signal (1981) by Phew | Signals (1983) by Brian Eno with Daniel Lanois and Roger Eno | Signals (2010) by The Soundcarriers