May 5, 2009

Quay Brothers at the Coolidge

Puppet Masters

By GREG COOK | April 29, 2009

If you don't know the films of the Quay Brothers, you don't know animation. Three decades ago, identical twins Stephen and Timothy Quay developed a cult following with eerie stop-motion puppet shorts, such as 1986's Street of Crocodiles, which Terry Gilliam has called "one of the 10 best animated films of all time," and clips on MTV. Their style resembles a musty toy box and a rusty toolbox come to life. Everything on the Quays' screen moves with an uncanny, unfathomable, haunting, insect-like logic.

Through April, the Coolidge Corner Theatre has been screening a retrospective of Quay films and projects featuring, among others, an animated dream sequence they put together for Julie Taymor's 2002 movie Frida and their own live-action feature flicks Institute Benjamenta and The Piano Tuner of Earthquakes. The tribute will culminate with the brothers coming to town next week to receive the 2009 Coolidge Award (past winners: Meryl Streep and Zhang Yimou) on May 6, and to screen and discuss excerpts of their films the following day. "Dormitorium," a companion exhibit of their animation sets, will be at the Fourth Wall Project through May 21.

The 61-year-old brothers grew up in suburban Philadelphia, but they've long lived in London, where the Phoenix reached them by phone. "We were artists who could actually draw and paint, and we got frustrated with that medium because there's no depth to it, there's no sound, no movement, light," they told me, as one voice got confused with the other. "So we thought naturally that we wanted to discover cinema. And the best way to do that would not be live action, but to do it on the tabletop, where you could control everything, and if you failed no one would have noticed.

"Having grown up in America," they said, "we would not have gone the route of Disney and the cartoon as comedy and entertainment. We [instead] felt [animation] had its roots in fairy tales, blood, Brothers Grimm on a more savage level, psychosis, sexuality. That became territory we felt puppets had not quite charted. And that's something we wanted to do. You know, in a quiet way."

The 2009 Coolidge Award will be presented on May 6, at the Coolidge Corner Theatre, 290 Harvard Street, in Brookline. For general-admission tickets, go to or call 617.734.2500.

"Dormitorium" will be on display Monday through Saturday until May 21, from 1 to 7 pm, at the Fourth Wall Project, 132 Brookline Avenue, in Boston. For more information, go to or e-mail

The ICA Boston "NEW ENGLAND ANIMATORS" 2nd Screening

The SMFA has THREE participants in this special screening event of regional animation filmmakers: visiting faculty Lorelei Pepi and SMFA graduate Norah Solarzano are both screening their animated films. Faculty member Joel Frenzer will be the screening event host on Thursday night. Ticket prices to the event are listed below. The collection of work of all participating filmmakers is quite strong and engaging, and definitely worth the trip.

On Thursdays the admission to the ICA EXHIBITIONS is FREE! You and your friends and family can come prior to the New England Animators show (7:30pm,) and enjoy the interesting and controversial Shepard Fairey exhibition.

ICA Boston "NEW ENGLAND ANIMATORS " 2nd Screening
Thursday, May 7, 7:30 pm

$10 general admission; $8 members, students, and seniors.

Karen Aqua, 'Twist of Fate'
Steven Gentile, 'My Girlfriend Sleeps Like Superman'
Chip Moore and Jon Goldman, 'Swim'
Gina Kamentsky, 'Lil’Basenji'
Lorelei Pepi, 'Happy & Gay'
Norah Solorzano, 'Blindspot'
Steven Subotnick, 'Jelly Fishers'
Daniel Sousa, 'Drift'
Kara Nasdor-Jones, I 'Slept with Cookie Monster'
Bryan Papciak, 'Steeple'
Jerry and Orrin Zucker, 'Speed Date'
Julie Zammarchi, 'The Passenger'
Agnieszka Woznicka, 'Birdy'

100 Northern Ave
Boston, MA 02210
(617) 478-3100