Combustible Celluloid
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With: Amira Casar, Gottfriend John, Assumpta Serna, Cesar Sarachu
Written by: Alan Passes, The Brothers Quay (a.k.a. Stephen and Timothy Quay)
Directed by: The Brothers Quay (a.k.a. Stephen and Timothy Quay)
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Language: Portuguese and English, with English subtitles
Running Time: 99
Date: 03/18/2013

The Piano Tuner of Earthquakes (2006)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Tuning Out

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Some animators make the jump from short films to features with little trouble (Frank Tashlin, Walerian Borowczyk, Jan Svankmajer), but the Brothers Quay (a.k.a. Stephen and Timothy Quay) appear not to grasp the long form quite as well. Their second feature, The Piano Tuner of Earthquakes -- which opens in San Francisco at the Red Vic Movie House -- luxuriates in astonishing visuals, golden-hewed pools of light among dramatic shadows, as well as painterly tableaus and bits and pieces of their gorgeous, trademark animation style. Their story follows a piano tuner (Cesar Sarachu) summoned to tweak several bizarre, mechanical musical instruments. A kidnapped opera singer Malvina van Stille (Amira Casar) is part of a diabolical plan that will culminate in a mysterious concert, performed by villain Dr. Emmanuel Droz (former James Bond baddie Gottfriend John). Frankly, the plot is far too conventional, with its three-act mystery, romance, chase and escape structure, to justify the striking visuals, and the Quay's pacing is just shy of frozen. Characters slowly whisper their dialogue to one another in scenes that would put the dead to sleep. But the imagery will conjure up comparisons to Lynch, Maddin and Gilliam (the latter of whom produced this film).

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