“Late one night, down in my parents’ split level suburban basement, channel-surfing the old-fashioned way, I hit my first taste of Quay— like an electric shock—like nothing I’d ever seen. The mystery of the Quay Brothers got its hooks into me. I spent two years wondering what the hell I’d seen.”–Christopher Nolan on his first viewing of “Street of Crocodiles”
FEATURING: Feliks Stawinski
PLOT: Eerie reminiscences unfold when a gaunt man is brought to life after a globule of spittle activates a machine. He explores dusty, encrusted back streets and shop fronts teeming with rusted machines while being followed by a young boy. At length, a quartet of funereal tailors offers him a refashioning of uncertain merit.
- “Street of Crocodiles” is inspired by a short story (and story collection of the same name) by Bruno Schulz. It was financed by the British Film Institute, which produced and distributed the Quay’s early works. The BFI insisted that the film be based on a literary source as a condition for funding.
- The final (and only) narration in “Street of Crocodiles” is voiced by Leszek Jankowski, the film’s composer and a collaborator of the Quays.
- Film-maker Terry Gilliam regards “Crocodiles” as one of the ten best animated films of all time; film critic Jonathan Romney one ups him, saying it’s one of the ten best films of all time. 1
- The Quay Brothers style in general, and “Street of Crocodiles” in particular, influenced many music videos; for example, Nine Inch Nails’ Closer (directed by ).
INDELIBLE IMAGE: During the twenty-one minutes of the film, the only “disposable” image is perhaps that of the live actor entering the opening frame and counting some unseen items on the ceiling. Virtually everything else sticks out like a rusty thumb. Forced as I am to choose, I’ll plump for the “memory inducement” sequence during which everything goes backwards as the protagonist (played by a marionette) peers through a square peephole. Ice cubes rise from a trapdoor, having un-melted; whispering seeds of a ripe dandelion reassemble into their fragile orb; and even the pointless workings of the rubber-band “Bachelor Machine”2 flip into reverse.
THREE WEIRD THINGS: Life-giving luminescence; skittering screws; meat map, mapped meat
WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD: Street of Crocodiles checks off a lot of boxes for a general “weird” survey: creepy visuals, stop-motion, dissonant score, defiantly vague plot-line, and pirouetting tailors. It’s hard to put it in words, as you might have guessed, but this is a Weird one. If you’ve seen anything like it since you first watched it, it’s probably because you just re-watched it.
Brief clip from Street of Crocodiles
COMMENTS: The difficult task of capturing a memory becomes Continue reading 337. STREET OF CROCODILES (1986)