Daily Archives: March 1, 1988

Tales Of The Brothers Quay

The films of the London-based American twins provide an interesting test case for someone like me who resists both puppet films and the gallows humor of eastern European animation. In a selection of films made between 1986 and 1993, ranging from their magnum opus Street of Crocodiles to their Rehearsals for Extinct Anatomies, one certainly encounters a good deal of invention and unkempt activity built around their distinctive brand of nostalgic old-country surrealism. As critic Raymond Durgnat points out, the theoretical implications of this work are fascinating, because puppetry knows so many (and such heterogeneous) syntheses of realistic and nonrealistic elements as to blur all possible elements between them. But most of the esoteric quasi-narrative structures employed by the brothers Quay and their collaborator Keith Griffiths make their movies closer to work than to play: arcane intertitles that usually seem to have a vague or tenuous relation to the action are flashed on the screen so quickly that one often feels at a loss trying to follow the obscure meaning structures, and the thematic bases of these shortswhich also include The Comb (1985) and Anamorphosis, among other itemsoften seem to get in the way of their free-floating pleasures. At their best, as in Street of Crocodiles, these films give off some of the eerie mood and texture of a David Lynch film, and one clearly can’t accuse the Quay brothers of predictability. Read more

Au Revoir Les Enfants

Louis Malle’s polished, sentimental memory piece (1987)about his glancing brush with the Nazi holocaust while attending a French Catholic boarding school in 1944works mightily to flatter the audience’s sense of compassion and virtue. The plot involves the hero’s growing friendship with a brilliant Jewish boy hiding incognito at the school (along with a few other Jews and members of the French resistance), whose identity is uncovered by the gestapo. In keeping with the more enlightened, liberal brand of French anti-Semitism, which depicts Jews as cute, lovable, and exotic rather than venal and sinister, the featured victim is treated as a rare objet d’art rather than an ordinary kid. Malle is certainly sincere in his efforts to describe the overall milieu accurately, and the film is less obnoxious than his pious Lacombe, Lucien (1973), which dealt with a related theme. With Raphael Fejto and Gaspard Manesse, especially good as Malle’s alter ego. In French with subtitles. 103 min. (JR) Read more