Like the improvisational jazz that often scores their films, the Hubley family's animated output has always married technical mastery with free-form spontaneity; this four-decades-long balancing act is presented at the Quad (December 10 through 17) in three rotating programs. Within the most painstaking of forms, John and Faith Hubley make impetuous use of both medium and narration: Mixing watercolors, oils, and wax crayons, their muddied landscapes are populated by translucent, rubbery-limbed figures given voice through improvised dialogue, provided either by the Hubleys' children (future animator Emily and Yo La Tengo drummer Georgia are the little girls discussing marriage, birth, and death in 1969's Windy Day) or unexpected pairs of notables (George Mathews and Dizzy Gillespie play underground workmen in the 1963 nuclear-annihilation allegory The Hole). After the death of her husbanda former Disney draftsman and blacklist victimin 1977, Faith's solo work took an abstract, nearly wordless turn; shorts like Africa (1998) as well as her feature-length The Cosmic Eye (1985) resemble pulsating canvases by Miró or Chagall, overrun with indeterminate dancing beings whose genealogy is equal parts fauvist and folk art (of the African and Native American varieties). Premiering at the Quad is Emily Hubley's Pigeon Within, which merges photography with spare, scrawly figuration in following its narrator on her confused, stumbling path home at dawn after a night of Canal Street barhopping. "There's no one anywhere," she sighs, at once melancholic and full of aweanother admixture from a family fond of unlikely pairs.
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