‘The Piano Tuner of Earthquakes’


Evoking fairy tales, European art, surrealist literature, and daguerreotypes, London-based directors the Brothers Quay confound their viewers with as much lush imagery as they can cram into a frame. The twins, Stephen and Timothy, have been making eccentric animation, short films, music videos (“Sledgehammer”!) and commercials (Coca-Cola!) since the late ’70s, but The Piano Tuner of Earthquakes is only their second feature, after 1995’s Institute Benjamenta. The story—about a beautiful opera singer falling captive to an evil doctor, his fetishistic housekeeper, and the doc’s innocent piano tuner—is only important in that it gives the Quays a foundation for their fabulous animated tableaux. The doctor’s bizarre musical machines whir. They click. They act out primal scenes. And though loose themes like the divide between master and servant resonate, in the end (which mirrors the beginning) it all makes less sense than it did when we started. No matter. As Dr. Droz (Gottfried John) explains to the tuner: What we are seeing is the most rational irrationality—and all sheer artifice anyway.