quay_brothersThe Quay brothers’ art presents a singular type of beauty. The meticulous and unparalleled craft, love of polish soundscapes, the existential dread and rich metaphor are just some of what these two unsung titans of film have brought to the medium. Watching one of their animated films is like wading through a nightmare of beautiful contradictions – you’re equally terrified, yet put at ease by their perverse oddities. Following a recent screening tour curated by fellow fan and director Christopher Nolan, Zeitgeist films’ The Quay Brothers: Collected Short Films fully lays out the duo’s ineffable work in the way that it deserves to be seen, including masterful transfers which expose the rich texture of their dreamlike worlds, and accessibility which allows us to revisit each film as many times as possible.

Included in this collection are a myriad of short films ranging from 1984 to 2013. As an intro to the Quays or a collection for fiending fans, it’s an overwhelming body of work that showcases their distinct style and diversity, spanning decades and running at just over 3 hours. Needless to say, there’s a lot to parse here, whether it’s the stunning stream-of-consciousness narrative of the iconic Street of Crocodiles, the sexual awakening of The Comb, the existential dread of In Absentia, the Kafka-esque horror of Maska or even the fragmented, ghostly enigma of Unmistaken Hands, each installment is a daring descent into madness and beyond.

In truth, each film presented here is rich enough to spin-off a lengthy discussion of its own, with the through line being the brothers’ ability to capture the intangible viscera of our deepest, darkest fears but also the awe and wonder of our imagination. Using intricate and fantastic machinations which turn form and shape into haunting dreams, their use of puppetry, rotting set pieces and impressionistic photography is profoundly arresting, immersing us into worlds that feel alien but also as comfortable as an irresistible dream. Needless to say, there’s a high level of detail and tactility in their imagined worlds, which beg us to explore every inch of each frame – with this blu-ray, it’s not only possible, but pretty much guaranteed.

quay_collected_short_films_1As an added bonus, Nolan’s latest film, Quay, is also included in this collection, an 8-minute portrait of brothers Stephen and Timothy in their element. Following them as they thrive in their intimate studio, he captures the two amidst cluttered book shelves featuring European works, puppets form their previous films and an endless amount of antiques and disembodied doll parts, just waiting to be employed. Seeing the two candidly spill a few tricks of their trade is as rewarding as watching their films, a tiny, peak into the psyche of two unhinged madmen.

The Quay Brothers: Collected Short Films is an exhausting experience but an indelible one. Even if you haven’t heard of the Quays, their influence isn’t one that can be denied, and this collection finally allows us to vividly experience their work in the best way, including a few audio commentaries, a booklet with articles by Nolan, Michael Atkinson and a dense glossary of mandatory terms revolving around the Quays and their work. Most importantly, this release allows us to watch their art transform over decades, proving them as artists who don’t do anything unless it’s some sort of challenge. With narratives which push the boundaries of the medium and stunning craft that can’t be denied, these works of art are a must that represent the very best of what film is all about.

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Includes the films:
The Cabinet of Jan Švankmajer (1984, 14 mins)
This Unnameable Little Broom (or The Epic of Gilgamesh) (1985, 11 mins)*
Street of Crocodiles (1986, 21 mins)*
Rehearsals for Extinct Anatomies (1988, 14 mins)
Stille Nacht I – Dramolet (1988, 1 min)*
The Comb (1990, 18 mins)
Anamoprhosis (1991, 14 mins)
Stille Nacht II (Are We Still Married?) (1992, 3 mins)*
Stille Nacht III (Tales from Vienna Woods) (1993, 4 mins)*
Stille Nacht IV (Can’t Go Wrong Without You) (1994, 4 mins)
In Absentia (2000, 20 mins)*
The Phantom Museum (2003, 12 mins)
Maska (2010, 24 mins)**
Through the Weeping Glass (2011, 31 mins)**
Unmistaken Hands (2013, 26 mins)**
and
Quay – a film by Christopher Nolan (2015, 8 mins)**

*Includes Quay Brothers Audio Commentary
**Not in the previously available Quay DVD collection