Phantom Museums: The Short Films of the Quay Brothers

Phantom Museums: The Short Films of the Quay Brothers

For those who already know the short films of the Brothers Quay, Phantom Museums is a welcome, thorough investigation of a lifelong dedication to stop-motion animation and dream sequence narratives. For those just discovering this identical twin team of Stephen and Timothy Quay, Phantom Museums is the place to start. This two-disc set includes roughly twenty of their projects, chronologically spanning thirty years. Inspired by the old-fashioned look of early animated features such as The Adventures of Prince Achmed, as well as Jan Svankmajer and Jiri Barta's films, The Brothers Quay built their reputation on combining the quaintness and delicacy of early animation with present day macabre. As miniaturists, they painstakingly hand assembled decadent sets, such as an ancient library, a shrunken head vault at the natural history museum, and spiral staircases. Homemade dolls with missing eyes, pins, needles, and screws, protractors, and other tiny metallic things, make characters and their environs grotesquely techno, framed by carnivalesque camerawork in which the viewer experiences scenes from every possible angle. Highly anatomical, they sometimes use steaks and livers to represent doll innards. Watching these films now, one appreciates their Goth quality, especially because of the romantic, classical musical accompaniment. Their influence on the music video industry is also apparent. Each film has a unique story and production design, so that although the overall Quay aesthetic is clear, variation avoids redundancy. Phantom Museums also includes director commentary, alternate versions, and a wonderful filmed interview with the pair, in which they discuss their father forcing them to choose between either becoming gym teachers or artists. Lucky for us.