In the Renaissance castle of Jan Potocki in Lancut, the modern traces of a past glory persevere and become visible again at the tones of Krzysztof Penderecki’s music and Brothers Quay’s imaginary animation.
Basically, what it is a sequence of shots, most of them without animation, showing the sights of Jan Potocki’s castle with and without people, during the day and during the night-time, with context of past significance vs. current nearly oblivion being created mostly through music. To tell the truth, it’s pretty boring. Very easy to lose track of what’s going on – mainly because nothing is going on. All in all it leaves a sensation of emptiness afterwards, which makes me doubt its necessity in the first place. Be that as it may, it didn’t make me care for Potocki, or whatever he left behid. Perhaps, my cultural background is too just slim to fully appreciate this barely movable movie.
Black Out 2022 by Shinichirô Watanabe is one of the 3 companion shorts attached to Denis Villeneuve’s Blade Runner 2049. It is implemented in the anime technique; as the title suggests, it is set in 2022, and tells about the events surrounding the prohibition of replicant technology, namely the riots, pogroms and killings of the known replicants, and their efforts to shut down the replicants’ database used by the instigators.
The storyline is quite clear and straightforward. The animation style is typical for the genre of anime, but, as far as I can tell, is relatively subtle and rich in nuances.
Though I’m not a connoisseur of the genre, it was still interesting to watch, and seems to be a very decent work, and a worthy addition to the bladerunner’s universe of discourse.
More by Mark Osborne is an animated short about a grey world inhabited by unhappy creatures. One day the hero discovers a light glowing in his belly, and soon comes up with an invention that is supposed to make everybody’s life better. But it only makes a shirt in the structure of the universe, without actually changing its ways…
The story is simply with a distinctive flavour of symbolism: obviously, it is a cruder version of our universe simplified to fit the idea. The idea, although not exactly original, seems to be true, and rather unsettling at that. The execution is quite masterful and generally aimed at intensifying of the feeling of comfortlessness created by the plot.
All in all, it’s really a significant work of art – maybe somewhat rough around the ages, but deep and meaningful.
Parfum Fraise is an animated short about an ex-gangster raising a son by himself. Despite his best effort to protect the child from the violence of his world, at some point he has to resort to it to protect him.
This is a rather coherent story that is based on very subtle nuances. So subtle, in fact, they seem a bit weak to me, a bit melodramatic. However, unlike most of the other Gobelins’ shorts, this one is not stupid, nor ugly. This is a watchable film – although, frankly speaking, the reason why it should be about the Japanese and in Japanese escape my understanding; plus, it isn’t nearly as strong as it could have been. But all in all – quite alright.
The Comb is a surreal story about a creepy doll and a woman, who seem to be communicating through the dream world.
This film is a rather typical Quay brothers’ work – obscure, dark and vague. As can be expected, the animation is impressive, as well as the interplay between the animated and real worlds. Other than that I have nothing to say. When you watch the works of this duet they tend to fuse into one large and monotonous picture, which is why I would recommend to only watch Quays once every 6 months or so – any rate thicker than that would not allow you to appreciate the mastery in full.
R’ha is an animated sci-fi short about a race of aliens who are fighting the war agains the intelligent machines that they themselves created. One of the pilots is capture and is being interrogated by a machine, who wants to find out a particularly sensitive piece of information.
The situation in the center of the story is not exactly original, nor the trick used by the machines is. But the overall execution and the unusual setting of the story make it into a pretty compelling and interesting thing. The animation is very well-implemented; the special effects are superb; the postproduction is pretty much flawless. All in all, it’s a very positive sci-fi experience.
Mehua is an animated short about an episode from the life of – I’m guessing – Aztecs. Two girlfriends are preparing to offer ultimate sacrifice and give their lives to the gods. But in the crucial moment their mutual affection turns out to be stronger than their devotion to their people’s traditions.
The story is more action-like, it lacks drama, and therefore – dramatic tension. The absence of dialogs seems unnatural. The development is fine, but the open finale is unjustified – not like there’s gonna be any kind of continuation. The animation is terrible – the skin of the characters is black, for some reason; the overall style is disney-primitive; the physics is simplified.
All in all, I really disliked it. Although the subject of the story is interesting in theory, the execution is nowhere near decent.
Bee is a CGI animated video with a bee approaching a flower. No story here, just this act of a bee – drawn with exceptional skill, very beautifully. Definitely shows the talent of the author as an artist, but has nothing to do with storytelling.
Preposterous: A Short About Absurdity is a short video indeed, only it’s not about anything. Rather it shows a number of absurd images, unconnected and without any context at all. Just random absurd situations involving things. Cute but meaningless.
Abiogenesis is an animated short about some entity that arrives on a planet not exactly prepared for appearance of life and pushes forward its development using local resources.
There are no characters here, but there is still a story, even though it’s mostly readable through context. I suppose, it’s pretty good, but the strongest side of it is the beauty of the execution – the animation looks really great, plus the physics of the world of discourse seems to be adequate, which produces a very positive impression in combination.
Tríd an Stoirm is an animated short drama about a woman, whose loved one died in the sea. A banshi comes to tell her about it, and she forces the creature to help her get down to hell in order to rescue the man from there.
This is basically the reverse-gender Orpheus story with a bit of personal touch. As such it’s not too original, but still rather fascinating, mostly because the animation is really great – it feels a little heavy, but is very beautiful. All in all the execution is superb.
Mute is an animated short film about the world inhabited with people without mouthes and, correspondingly, the ability to produce sounds. Once a baby accidentally drops a knife on itself that cuts a hole in its face, and this is how the world changes forever.
This is a strange, even bizarre story, very bold, smart and funny. Some pieces of it may seem too much. or too strong, but
not to me all in all it’s a powerful surreal tale – exactly the kind where people tend to find things deeper and more complex than the authors intended.
This Unnameable Little Broom (also known as Little Songs of the Chief Officer of Hunar Louse) is a Quay brothers’ animated short loosely based on the Gilgamesh epic. In this version the hero is a little broom that circles around his tiny boxed universe on a tricycle.
Here’s a more detailed description written by <firstname.lastname@example.org> for IMDB:
A red-clothed puppet lives in a room with a missing wall. He rides a tricycle. Gadgets surround him. He eats dandelion tufts. A painting lies on a table in the middle of his room. He hides. A bird-man flies into the room curious about the vaguely erotic painting. Something in it moves: the bird-man looks closely, the painting clamps shut, he’s ensnared. Trike-man emerges from hiding, frees a cricket from inside the table and throws the cricket into the night. He pulls a bolt of cloth through a hole in one wall, yard by yard. Trapped in the cloth is the bird-man, whose wings the trike-man clips; he cages the bird-man in his table and rides his trike maniacally around the cage.
I don’t really know how to characterize this work. In the discourse of the Quay brothers’ animation it’s quite good, I suppose. It’s just as surreal and ambiguous as the rest of their works, but also quite comprehensible – with a little effort, that is.
However, the more I watch their films, the more I’m certain that I’m not really a fan. Which doesn’t prevent me from acknowledging the quality of their work.
Happiness is an animated short metaphorically depicting the humanity’s pursuit of happiness by way of consuming promoted goods.
The metaphor is, of course, nothing new, but it is developed much further than it usually gets to be, and in a very smart way, too. The animation is truly interesting – the style is quite distinctive and original; the execution is really superb. Highly recommended.
Black Soul Choir is a music video clip the only interesting thing about which is that it was created with participation of the Quay brothers. However, their animation takes up a lesser part of the clip and is not particularly outstanding – just stuff one would expect from them. The music is fine, I guess. I didn’t really care for it, but, perhaps, it’s just not my piece of pie.
Divers is an animated video about a bunch of divers jumping off of very-very high platforms and forming various synchronous figures while flying.
There is no story. The animation is okay. The arrangement is not entirely logical (premise aside), but who really cares. The performance on the fly is pretty, but it’s all animated, so not really impressive. All in all, nothing all that special.
Songs for Dead Children is a short film composed of three parts, all with the music by Steve Martland, all connected through the leitmotif of death and dead children.
If we are to trust the internet, this film is little know because it could not be commercialized due to high cost of the music copyright. As to the contents and the quality of it, I’d say it’s Quay average. It is indeed dark and fanciful, exactly what one’d expect from the twins, but it also barely comprehensible, which, I suppose, is not that surprising either. The music seems nice, although I can hardly be called a fan; my concern is that it’s not very interesting to watch, albeit pleasant to listen to. But then again – what do I know? I’m not nearly as cultured as the directors, so me not really understanding what is the deal here should not be anybody’s clue.
Pixels is a short animation picturing the apocalypse that results from pixels penetrating into reality from the digital world. Various cases are shown, all in the form of well-known games of the early computers area, including Tetris, Pac-Man and others.
The quality of animation is astonishing. Fantasy in itself is quite wild; integration of the concept is ingenious. Although on the idea level the film is pretty simple, it is also extremely impressive all in all.
De Artificiali Perspectiva is semi-animated work on the history of one particular graphic technique called anamorphosis that was quite popular among european artists and painters in the 16th century.
This is an excursus into a specific chapter of the fine arts history, and as such it’s quite educational. The narrative is interesting enough, although it wouldn’t seem so to most people. The animation has distinctive marks of the Quay style and is executed on a good professional level. All in all, I liked it.
An Instagram Short Film by Thomas Jullien is a collection of instagram pictures edited together to resemble a moving picture.
This is obviously a lot of work – to put together almost 900 pictures of different authors who never had such prospects for their work, – and the final result is indeed impressive. However, there is no story here, for there are no people in the pictures – only the views. All in all it’s pretty cool, although not my cup of tea.
The Cabinet of Jan Svankmajer is the Quay’s brothers’ attempt to reconstruct the ways this famous Czech filmmaker and animator thought and worked.
This is a fine piece of animation – surreal, as is usually the case with the Quay’s works, although considering Svankmajer’s legacy, there is no other proper way to honour it. It is a very subtle work, with great many details and touches that combined constitute a consistent and beautiful story.
In Absentia is almost a horror. It’s based on a story of a woman who lived in a psychiatric asylum and was spending her days writing the same phrase to her husband over and over again.
This is a very compelling and rather unsettling movie. Obviously, the brothers tried to imagine the inner workings of a broken mind, as well as specific horrifying circumstances of that particular mind’s story. I believe, they managed to do a fine job – and not only on the conceptual level, but in the execution as well. As it usually is with the work, when it comes down to dark sides of human life and psyche, the animation is absolutely gorgeous. The overall composition that consists not only of animated pieces, but of live acting as well, is exceptionally harmonious – although not in a sense that it would bring you harmony.
Burn Out is an animated short about a space worker who had emergency land on a desert planet. The place seems uninhabited at first, but the heroine soon meets a little girl, who is apparently living there in some cave. The girl dreams of going to the Sirius space school and eventually becoming a space researcher, which reminds our heroine of her own dreams.
On the one hand, the essence of this short is pretty clear – it’s an inspirational call, follow-your-dreams, stay-true-to-yourself, etc. But upon a closer view, the story is kinda weird. So, we have a woman who landed on some space rock, on which, she assumes, there’s no atmosphere. Then she meets a little girl, who lives there by herself in a cave. Was it a real person? Was it a hallucination? Was it a walk down a memory lane? There are no clues that would indicate any of those options with any kind of certainty.
The animation looks like a Disney wannabe only not as brightly coloured, – at that, I’m talking Disney of the 1990s, not the modern kind. Personally, I do not care for that style – it’s too rough and mellow at the same time.
All in all, considering senseless optimism of the message and approximateness of the science, the film looks like a load of crap. Not a large load, just a middle-sized one.
Warmachine is an animated action short film that looks like a teaser to some videogame. Weird technobeasts pursue a warrior directed by the will of some techno-villain. Then they fight.
Animation seems to be rather good quality, but it lacks subtlety. The story looks like a part of a bigger one, but neither that larger picture, nor this piece are very interesting and/or original. Characters are voiced by the same person, and it’s painfully evident. All in all, it’s not clear why this thing should even exist.
Street of Crocodiles by the Quay brothers is a screen adaptation of Bruno Schulz’s work. It’s a surreal tale of a puppet who got freed from the strings, in ‘a dusty and forlorn commercial area. The explorer becomes ensnared into miniature tailor shop by baby-faced dolls’.
This is rather superb work of animation – a highly detailed world, distinct heroes, obscure story with strong but weird and misty relationship ties between the characters. It is extremely interesting to follow the events of the movie, even though most of the time it’s hard to understand what exactly is going on. As it often happens with the Quay brothers works, the most impressive are separate images: here these are the baby-face dolls and their dance in the finale; the uncoiling screws; the bulb-headed person; what seems to be a confrontation between the puppet and the baby-face master; masterful but unsettling incorporation of meat into the otherwise inorganic world; and many others.