July 1, 2011 by musehick
I have been revisiting the world of the Brother’s Quay, who I think are my favourite animators. I was talking to my wife about them the other night and I kind of came to a realisation about why I like them – why I like a lot of the things that I like. There animation, made using stop-gap animation techniques, is very physical (very organic) and the models they use and the world they move their characters through feels used; it feels lived in, and that is where it derives its authenticity from.
I never really bought the whole idea of pristine worlds – either futures or present day dramas where everything looks like someone pops out every two seconds to polish it. This is why the original Star Wars films worked for me – because the idea of a used future was in full swing … sure, these guys had weird powers and all that but the machines that they used to work with got dirty; the robots and the machinery looked like they might rust to the point where they fell apart.
I think the same reason has something to do with why Batman worked for me and Superman didn’t – Superman never got his hands dirty and it never seemed like he was doing a real job; Batman was tough and gritty and realistic to the degree that the shit he was doing that was messy made a mess. Things don’t stay hermetically sealed off from the grimy world with which they interact. It’s the difference between a Hollywood film where the characters play out the same storyline of boys meets girl, gets girl loses girl and has the emotional depth of a saucer of milk, versus a film where people actually go through something and change; and by change I don’t mean some facile surface-deep change that involves coming their hair in a different way and wearing a cocktail dress instead of dungarees.
The Brother’s Quay collection “Phantom Museum’ taps into a lot of areas which I am interested in. All of these films would work well as Tool videos – something you can see if you look for ‘Street Of Crocodiles’ on youtube. They plug into a visual narrative that wouldn’t be out of place with a Hauntology soundtrack. They conjure up that same feeling that watching old silent movies like Battleship Potemkin stir in me. They also, and perhaps given the nostalgia driven bent culture has run on for more than half of my life this is most important, they connect to that sensibility which informed shows like Bagpuss, The Flumps, and the Clangers – a feeling which instantly makes the thing you are watching feel like it was dug up out some radioactive rubbish dump that contains secrets about long lost worlds that once existed; an archive of the suubconcious … dark children’s fairy story dreams stained sepia soundtracked by a broken player piano.
It’s inspired a lot of things I have written – this aesthetic; cobwebs and rust and the wonder of exploring an attic and finding treasure.