A few years back I saw "Institute Benjamenta," the Quay Brothers' full-length live-action film, at some festival. I'd never heard of them before, but they blew me away like they blow everybody away. The B&W was just lovely. I left the theatre like Moses left Horeb.
Of course, the Quays are better known for their stop-motion shorts, and when I mentioned "Benjamenta" to a friend, he loaned me a tape with "Street of Crocodiles" and a few others. All the Tool and Chemical Bros and NIN videos aside, when I watched "Crocodiles" for the first time, I realized I had hit bedrock. The videos are just cheap and tawdry imitations. Mark Romanek chips on this vibe but he's just aping Quay. Nor can you blame him. Once you've watched a band of empty-headed, hollow-eyed Victorian dolls perform bizarre experiments with raw meat and insects to a stabbing violin score, you walk away a changed featherless biped.
Well I condidered myself a fan, but I hadn't seen the half of the films on this DVD before I bought it. I had like a month of Quay-Samadhi. My personal favourites are the lovely B&W "Stille Nachts." "Dramolet" examines the secret life of lead filings (animated in stop-motion!) and magnets, presided over by an incredibly weathered and threadbare doll-puppet with cracked face and glistening black eyes. Later "Stille Nachts" were videos for His Name Is Alive (never heard of them before this either), including "Are We Still Married" and "Can't Go Wrong Without You," which feature the comedy duo of a veiled doll in striped socks that rocks back and forth ominously on its heels, and a decaying toy rabbit orbited by kinetic ping-pong balls. Also in this series is "Tales From the Vienna Woods," which displays much of the symbolic imagery later used in "Benjamenta:" antlers and hooves and plaques in German, etc.
These films "aren't for everybody;" there I said it. But neither is "You've Got Mail." If you're interested in them at all, if you're reading this page but you actually haven't seen the films but they sound like your thing - if you're the ultimate sitting duck consumer, in other words - all I can say in this case is CONSUME. I doubt you'll regret it. And if you do, well, you have no taste anyway, so what do I care. By the way, it doesn't necessarily follow that if you love one film, you'll love em all, or "" if you hate. I have to be in a very rare mood to watch "Crocodiles" again (now that I've seen the others), but "The Comb" and "Rehearsals for Extinct Anatomies" endlessly facinate me. Each piece has its own atomsphere.