550. The Cabinet of Jan Svankmajer – Timothy Quay, Stephen Quay

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SUMMARY: A professor takes a young boy as his pupil and teaches him the secrets of illusion and perspective using a large bank of drawers.

WHY IT’S HERE: Like many animation fans, I came to the work of the Brothers Quay by way of Jan Svankmajer, with whom they share a fascination with the uncanny and creepy. Given the great creative debt the Brothers Quay owe to Svankmajer, it is appropriate and touching to see them dedicate the aptly bizaree ‘Cabinet of Jan Svankmajer’ to their mentor. This film, using the figures of a professorial puppet and his apprentice, essentially demonstrates the effect Svankmajer’s leading light has had on the Brothers Quay, as the master demonstrates the secrets of illusion and perspective to his apprentice and literally fills his head with new ideas. Confusing to those who see it without any context, ‘The Cabinet of Jan Svankmajer’ is both a demonstration of the Brothers Quay’s obvious talents and their occasionally impenetrable style. While I have been largely impressed by their work, I never warmed to it as much as that of their mentor. Nevertheless, ‘The Cabinet of Jan Svankmajer’ is a good starting point for newcomers and hinted at the heights that were to come with their subsequent masterpiece ‘Street of Crocodiles’.

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