577. Street of Crocodiles – Timothy Quay, Stephen Quay

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SUMMARY: A puppet is left alone in a lecture hall to explore the strange and troubling world around him.

WHY IT’S HERE: One of the most famous animated shorts ever made and one of the few films I’ve ever seen that gave me nightmares (by which I mean genuine, wake-up-screaming nightmares!), ‘Street of Crocodiles’ defies categorisation or conventional summarisation. It is based upon a short story of the same name by Bruno Schulz but rather than directly adapt the narrative, the Brothers Quay opted instead to evoke its mood and expose its psychological undertones without overtly exploring them. Many interpretations have been imposed on ‘Street of Crocodiles’, none of them definitive or necessary. To attempt to unpick this cryptic masterpiece is to reject the beauty of experiencing it as the intangible phenomenon it is. The haunting, rigid-faced protagonist and the hollow-eyed dolls fill the viewer with an ill-defined terror and the sense that something unsavoury but difficult to define is occurring never leaves one’s mind. For those who like a straightforward story and closure, ‘Street of Crocodiles’ will prove frustrating but it’s hard to imagine anyone who watches it properly ever describing it as dull. This is a short that gets into your bones and, evidently, comes back to haunt you in your deepest sleep. It truly is a masterpiece, though few have been able to articulate exactly why. Terry Gilliam named it as one of the ten best animations of all time, while critic Jonathan Romney went one step further, naming it one of the ten best films ever made in an medium.

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