Leszek Jankowski’s music is the soul of The Brothers Quay’s Street of Crocodiles

 

In the stop-motion film, Street of Crocodiles, the Quay brothers- Stephen and Timothy Quay- bring to life the Jewish Polish writer Bruno Schulz’s 1933 story, Ulica Krokodyli (Street of Crocodiles). The film’s lack of dialogue, though very much noticed at first, is not at all missed with all the goings-on on the screen; dolls, mannequins, rolling screws. The music composed by Leszek Jankowski, however, is what gives the films eerie, battered, child-like characters breath.

The film starts with the tick-tock of time accompanied by a human whistling that turns into birds whistling. All of that gets drowned out by harps and cellos conveying what is to come. A man in a back room of a lecture hall spits

A man in a back room of a lecture hall spits onto a spool in a box which greases the spool which in turn, lifts a screen door within the box. The man in the lecture hall back room then inserts scissors into the low end of the box and snips the string of the film’s protagonist: well-dressed puppet with wild hair.

The puppet moves around the box world with caution.

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The music is a screeching violin, the kind of sound you hear at a child recital. This violin is accompanied by the repeating rhythm of a cello, like an instructor trying to guide its pupil. The music then turns into a bwaang-bwaang sound, like a child playing a rubber band guitar and then silence. The puppet looks at all the still mannequins behind clear frames. We, like him, are merely observing the images and sounds some of these things make. The silence of the music gives the room to do so and amplifies the bareness of the objects seen.

The puppet looks at all the still mannequins behind clear frames. We, like him, are merely observing the images and sounds some of these things make. The silence gives the room to do so and amplifies the bareness of the objects seen.

Far away from where the puppet stands, alarm bells with birds trills sound off. The puppet moves toward a squeaky pulley and softly touches the string. This action turns off the sounds of alarms. However, the action brings about murmurs.

There are closeups of the puppet’s eyes, the puppets face, quietly contemplating what he may be hearing. Then comes in a tailor with its three apprentices which pull the puppet into their office to prepare him a suite and new head.

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A whimsical tick-tock and xylophone keys are played with deep cello strings singing and squeaky violins voicing their short remarks while the apprentices twirl about the sewing room. They change his clothes and give him a hollow head like theirs but stuff it with white fibers. However, the tailor has a change of heart and decides to give the puppet back his original head. Once the scene ends, a melancholy harp tune is played which then becomes accompanied by a mature violin and cello.

The moments of the surprise and joy and curiosity which heightened during the tailor and dancing apprentice scene is now a mere memory, an experience in which the puppet internalizes and appreciates.

The music, though creepy at times, really exemplifies the growth of the puppet; from novice screechy violins to harmonious cellos, xylophones, and strings, to the minimal sound of melody by single harp tones. The puppet learns to not run foolishly with his curiosity but instead cautiously investigate his surroundings and know when to leave things as they are.

 

“In that city of cheap human material, no instincts can flourish, no dark and unusual passions can be aroused. The street of crocodiles was a concession of our city to modernity and metropolitan corruption. The misfortune of that area is that nothing ever success there, nothing can ever reach a definite conclusion. Obviously, we were unable to afford anything better that a cardboard imitation, a photo-montage cut out from last years mouldering newspapers.” – Bruno Schulz, Ulica Krokodyli , 1933

Bob’s Burgers: An Animated Series essential for the Whole Family

Creator Loren Bouchard (known for Home Movies) and co-creator/executive producer Jim Dauterive (known for his work in King of the Hill) gave birth to the blue-collar, self-employed, Belcher family. Bob’s Burger stars Bob Belcher (H. Jon Benjamin), his wife Linda (John Roberts), and their three kids; thirteen year old Tina (Dan Mintz), eleven year old Gene (Eugene Mirman), and nine year old Louise (Kristen Schaal) and centers on their struggles for keeping their family sane and their restaurant open. The opening credits of the series show how the family struggles three times to open their restaurant: their building catches on fire, their restaurant gets infested with rats, and finally, a car crashes into an electrical pole that falls into their restaurant window. All of this is juxtaposed with its ukulele theme song which pushes the feeling that though things can get bad, the family can persevere.

What’s great about this series is its ability to give each family member their own individuality and showing how the family respects their individualism. In Frond Files (season 4, episode 12) Bob and Linda go to Wagstaff School to see their children’s work in the school’s show, “Why I love Wagstaff”, however, when they can’t find their work projects, they go looking for the school guidance counselor, Phillip Frond (David Herman). After unsuccessfully hiding from them, Mr. Frond decides to bring Bob and Linda to his office to talk about their kids’ projects. All three of them wrote story reports explaining why they love their school. Gene’s is titled “Fart School for the Gifted” which is a musical, Tina’s is titled “A Tale of Horror” which is about a zombie attack stopped by Tina’s flirting abilities, and Louise’s is simply titled “Why I Love Wagstaff” which is about robot Mr. Frond coming to attack to Louise, Terminator-style. Mr. Frond pulls these projects of the school show because they make him look bad in their stories and he is very hurt by that. Instead of Bob and Linda taking Mr. Frond’s side regarding the subjects of their kids’ stories, they actually enjoy the creativity, even when it’s a little comfortable for them (Bob quickly changes the subject from Tina’s semi-erotic fan-fiction to Louise’s sci-fi fiction). When Mr. Frond sees that they do not see eye-to-eye, he breaks down and cries “why don’t they like me!” Their response is he should relax and try to relate to the kids.

Another great thing about the show is Bob and Linda’s openness and understanding to their children’s individual ticks. 151344_origIn Kids Run Away, Louise runs away from the dentist, Dr. Yap (Ken Jeong), during the families bi-annual dental cleaning. When she finds out she needs a filling, she runs away to her “crazy” aunt Gayle’s (Megan Mullally) studio apartment. Bob supports Linda’s idea of betting Louise that if she cannot handle a weekend with her aunt, she will have to get the filling. Linda sends Tina and Gene to stay with her sister Gayle and has Tina be the spy that will follow Linda’s outside orders via text messages, to try to make the weekend unbearable. This reminds me of all the different measures I’ve taken as a parent to force my kids to do things that need to be done. Louise ends up winning the bet but still refuses to go to the dentist and instead of Bob and Linda just forcing her, Aunt Gayle is the one that helps Louise “turn her fear-believe into make-believe” which creates a beautiful last 5 minutes of the episode showing how the family, including Dr. Yap, works together to get the tooth-filling mission complete. Bob’s Burgers episodes don’t bluntly give out “lessons” but the story lines give important views on how a family can work together.