Tuesday, March 15, 2011
Street of Crocodiles (1987)
Street of Crocodiles is a 21-minute-long stop-motion animation short subject directed and produced by the Brothers Quay and released in 1986.
The Street of Crocodiles was originally a short novel written by Bruno Schulz, from a story collection published under that title in English translation. Rather than literally representing the childhood memoirs of Schulz, the animators used the story's mood and psychological undertones as inspiration for their own creation.
A man closes up a lecture hall; he reaches into a box and snips the string holding a gaunt puppet. Released, the puppet warily explores the darkened rooms about him. The desolate ambiance and haunting musical score convey a sense of isolation and futility, forcing the viewer into immediate identification with the mute protagonist as he explores a realm of mechanical realities and manufactured pleasures. As the protagonist tries to conform, or is forced into assimilation, the film slowly reveals how unfulfilling the surroundings actually are. Life and vitality are gradually stripped away to reveal the passionless cycle of existence.
Although heavily metaphorical, the piece also exemplifies the experimental and curious nature of the Quays' work. Rather than examining the potential symbolism of such props as screws, dust, string, and wind-up monkeys, many shots seem to focus on the movements and inherent characteristics of the materials. Like most of their films, the Brothers Quay employ a more musically-grounded structure in place of a straight-forward literal narrative in Street of Crocodiles.
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