The Street of Crocodiles (1986) was my first Quay Brothers film experience, and I mean experience in the most literal sense. The lights dim, and you slide back in your chair. The screen illuminates with that black glow that spawns a flittering of anxiety in the base of your stomach, even before any images appear. I remember the wooden esophagus with it's clustered, rusted screws scurrying along the floor, the towering boxes with layers of filth, and that moment on the street where everything comes together. That was my first Quay film, but far from the last. The Piano Turner of Earthquakes (2005), The Calligrapher (1991), and The Unnameable Little Broom (1985); I've seen them all. I can't tell you my favorite, however. That's the one thing about the Quays, they dedicate their actions through prop and position, juxtaposing victorian delicacy and bio-mechanic fervor with such intention that each film is more about an overarching feeling than the linage of script. The bounding box of film dissolves and the viewer is left alone, running through Russian cardboard streets - soot covered and singed - alongside raggity doll-like characters. Each piece is so entrenched in detail that you may not even notice the subtly of the lighting, that so precisely illuminates some level of foreshadowing, slyly placed within your periphery. Dormitiorium expands this feeling into a more tangible installation experience.
Parsons The New School for Design will present Dormitorium: An Exhibition of Film Decors by the Quay Bros., from July 15 through October 4, 2009. Organized by the University of the Arts, Philadelphia, Dormitorium represents the first time the sets of the London-based Quays have been exhibited in North America.