Street of Crocodiles (film)  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Street of Crocodiles is a 21-minute-long stop-motion animation short subject directed and produced by the Brothers Quay and released in 1986.

The Street of Crocodiles was originally a short story written by Bruno Schulz, from a story collection published under that title in English translation. Rather than literally representing the childhood memoirs of Schulz, the animators used the story's mood and psychological undertones as inspiration for their own creation.

Contents

Plot

A man closes up a lecture hall; he reaches into a box and snips the string holding a gaunt puppet. Released, the puppet warily explores the darkened rooms about him. The desolate ambiance and haunting musical score convey a sense of isolation and futility, forcing the viewer into immediate identification with the mute protagonist as he explores a realm of mechanical realities and manufactured pleasures. As the protagonist tries to conform, or is forced into assimilation, the film slowly reveals how unfulfilling the surroundings actually are. Life and vitality are gradually stripped away to reveal the passionless cycle of existence.

Themes

Although heavily metaphorical, the piece also exemplifies the experimental and curious nature of the Quays' work. Rather than examining the potential symbolism of such props as screws, dust, string, and wind-up monkeys, many shots seem to focus on the movements and inherent characteristics of the materials. Like most of their films, the Brothers Quay employ a more musically-grounded structure in place of a straight-forward literal narrative in Street of Crocodiles.

Influence

The "unofficial" DVD version of the Nine Inch Nails video Closure contains a clip in which Mark Romanek, the director of the video for Closer, explains that the video was heavily influenced by this animation.

The American rock band Tool has employed stop-motion effects in many of their music videos. A strong influence from the Quays' work, and especially The Street of Crocodiles, is obvious in the videos for Sober and Prison Sex.

Critical acclaim

Terry Gilliam selected Street of Crocodiles as one of the top ten best animated films of all time. Critic Jonathan Romney went further still, voting it one of the ten best films of all time in the 2002 decennial critics' poll for Sight and Sound magazine.

Release details

The film is available through two separate DVD/VHS releases. The first was produced in 2000 by the New York-based Kino on Video and released on NTSC DVD. Entitled The Brothers Quay Collection: Ten Astonishing Short Films 1984-1993, it is now out of print. The second edition was produced by the BFI in London and released in November 2006. The two-disc set, entitled "Quay Brothers - The Short Films 1979-2003", has been licensed to Zeitgeist Films in New York, who brought out their own NTSC DVD "Phantom Museums - The Short Films of the Quay Brothers" in April 2007. It should be noted that the BFI and Zeitgeist versions feature an optional audio commentary by the Quay Brothers, which was recorded in London in May 2006.



Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Street of Crocodiles (film)" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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