This week, MUBI is pleased to exclusively present in the United States a quartet of new restorations and high definition digital scans from two of cinemas great animations luminaries: the Brothers Quay. Starting July 26, we'll be showing Rehearsals for Extinct Anatomies (1987), The Comb (1990), Anamorphosis (1991), and In Absentia (2000).
We're fans, but we're not alone: the Quays' on-the-record admirers include filmmakers from Terry Gilliam to Christopher Nolan to The Duke of Burgundy's Peter Strickland. We reached out to Duke Johnson, the Oscar-nominated animator and co-director (with Charlie Kaufman) of Anomalisa, who spoke to us at Cinefamily in Los Angeles to discuss the Quays' enduring appeal.
Asked about animation's place in contemporary cinema, Johnson said, "I see contemporary cinema as animated, for the most part. Our mainstream films, like Transformers or The Avengers are seemingly primarily animated films. They have live action actors, but they often times have just as many animated characters as well. We live in a world where every film is Who Framed Roger Rabbit nowadays."
"I was thinking of this as I was driving over here," Johnson added, "About how we think 'live-action films, that's sort of real,' and animated films are fake or fantasy. And the lines are really blurred now, but they kind of always have been blurred. Now they're very blurred, like you have The Jungle Book, which stars a real human child, but it's a human child acting with tennis balls in front of a blue screen, and everything else is created by animators. You could flip that and look at a classic like Bambi. You can say, 'That's definitely an animated film, that's not real.' But then, on the other hand, those voices are real. Those are human voices, and the gestures and the movement that the characters are performing are drawn from human movements and gestures."
"Saying that animation is not real is true, and it's not true. It's not real, but it's the representation of life. But so is live action...It's artifice. All cinema is artifice."
Watch his full introduction to our series on the Brothers Quay below: