Street of Crocodiles
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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.
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 ambience and haunting musical score are meant to convey a sense of isolation and futility. As the short continues, the mute protagonist explores a realm of what are described by the director as "mechanical realities and manufactured pleasures". As the protagonist chooses to join this world, the camera slowly reveals how unfulfilling the surroundings actually are.
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 straightforward literal narrative in Street of Crocodiles.
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".
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.
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. The BFI and Zeitgeist versions feature an optional audio commentary by the Quay Brothers, which was recorded in London in May 2006.