19 August, 2012

Rediscovering The Quay Brothers

by Sandy Mandelberger, North American Editor

Among the filmmaker iconoclasts who have influenced many a film and visual artist, one of the least heralded in their native United States are re the identical twins known as the Quay Brothers. All that is hopefully about to change as New York’s prestigious Museum of Modern Art opens Prescription for Deciphering the Quay Brothers, a gallery exhibition and accompanying film retrospective which will be the first presentation of the Quay Brothers’ work in all their fields of creative activity. The exhibition opened this past weekend and continues through the end of the year.

Born in the suburbs of Philadelphia, the Quay Brothers reside and work in England, having moved there in 1969 to study at the Royal College of Art in London. Starting off as painters and illustrators, they drifted into the world of experimental film, forming Koninck Studios in 1980, based in the trendy neighborhood of Southwark in South London. For over 30 years, they have been in the avant-garde of stop-motion puppet animation and live-action movie-making, drawing influence from the Eastern European tradition of filmmakers like Walerian Borowczyk and Jan Svankmajer.  Most of their animation films feature puppets made of doll parts and other organic and inorganic materials, often partially disassembled, in a dark, moody atmosphere. Perhaps their best known work is STREET OF CROCODILES, based on the short novel of the same name by the Polish author and artist Bruno Schulz. With very few exceptions, their films have no meaningful spoken dialogue—most have no spoken content at all, while some, like THE COMB (1990) include multilingual background gibberish that is not supposed to be coherently understood. Accordingly, their films are highly reliant on their music scores, many of which have been written especially for them by the Polish composer Leszek Jankowski.

Most recently, the 65 year old twins were commissioned by Leeds Canvas, a group of eight cultural organizations in Leeds, UK, to create in May 2012 a major city-wide art installation, OverWorlds & UnderWorlds. The commission was one of twelve Artists Taking the Lead projects that are being featured this week in the cultural programs surrounding the London 2012 Olympiad. In all, the Quay Brothers have produced over 45 moving image works, including two features, music videos, dance films, documentaries, and signature personal works. They have also designed sets and projections for opera, drama, and concert performances, as well as recent site-specific pieces based on the work of Bela Bartók and Franz Kafka. In addition to showcasing their films, the MoMA exhibition will include never-before-seen moving image works and graphic design, drawings, and calligraphy, presenting animated and live-action films alongside installations, objects, and works on paper. For more information on this comprehensive and provocative series, visit:

10 August, 2012

Hommage To Claude Sautet

by Sandy Mandelberger, North American Editor

Even the most avid of French film lovers may not be as familiar with the career and oeuvre of Claude Sautet. Well, the Film Society of Lincoln Center in New York is about to address it, offering the iconic French director a well-seeded retrospective of his major and minor works, most not seen in theaters for over 30 years. This is the kind of homage that brings the French auteur to the forefront along with his better known contemporaries and allows American audiences the chance to discover a formidable film talent. CLAUDE SAUTET: THE THINGS OF LIFE ran from August 1 to 9 and  showcased the director’s films, including his masterpiece MAX ET LES FERRAILLEURS which will have its long awaited US theatrical premiere with a one week run beginning August 10th at the Society’s Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center, in a new 35mm restoration from Rialto Pictures.

Hailed as a master filmmaker by Jean-Pierre Melville, Francois Truffaut and film critic Pauline Kael, Claude Sautet ranked among the most popular French directors of his generation at home and abroad, though today his body of work has slipped into anonymity. The 13-film lineup – complete save for Sautet’s disavowed debut feature BONJOUR SOURIRE – includes a new digital restoration of the 1965 thriller THE DICTATOR’S GUNS starring Lino Ventura; the Venice Film Festival award winner A HEART IN WINTER, a brilliantly acted relationship drama set against the world of classical music; the Oscar-nominated A SIMPLE STORY, featuring a stunning performance by longtime muse Romy Schneider; and his international breakthrough THE THINGS OF LIFE, remade in the U.S. decades later as the Richard Gere/Sharon Stone starrer INTERSECTION. The series also includes an intimate look at the filmmaker himself in the documentary, CLAUDE SAUTET OR THE INVISIBLE MAGIC, culled hours of audio interviews in which he discussed his body of work in extraordinary and candid detail.
Claude Sautet was a master of la vie quotidienne, whether that happened to be the lives of petty criminals or of his favorite subject, the haute bourgeoisie,” said the Film Society’s Associate Program Director Scott Foundas, who programmed the series. “With an unshowy style and keenly observed detail, he captured the ways people sit in cafés, browse in bookshops, talk around the dinner table. Above all, he peered deeply into the mysteries of attraction, creating a rich body of unconventional, unpredictable, vividly human love stories.” For more information, visit: